On March 19, Maddie Hasson ’20 was named the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) NCAA Division III Player of the Year, the most prestigious individual honor in DIII women’s basketball. Hasson is only the third Bowdoin athlete to win the award, following in the footsteps of Eileen Flaherty ’07 and Kate Kerrigan ’18. With the announcement, Bowdoin joins Amherst as one of only two NESCAC teams who have had three athletes win the award.
This award is a crowning achievement for what was a superlative senior season for Hasson. She led the NESCAC with a 61.7 percent field goal percentage and finished in the top five in the conference in both points per game and rebounds per game, tallying 16.7 and 7.9, respectively. As a team captain, she led the Polar Bears to their first NESCAC championship in a decade and brought Bowdoin to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Division III Championships before the tournament was cut short due to the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Player of the Year award is one of many individual accolades awarded to Hasson this season. She has also been named a first-team all-NESCAC selection along with fellow captain Samantha Roy ’20, a Jostens Trophy finalist (an award that recognizes the top student-athlete in Division III women’s basketball) and first-team all-New England selection by the New England Women’s Basketball Association. Finally, D3hoops.com announced on March 25 that Hasson had also been named an all-Region and all-American player in its end-of-season polls.
For an award as selective as national player of the year, it often seems pointless to identify certain players as candidates years in advance. But Head Coach Adrienne Shibles suspected that Hasson would be a special talent from the first time that she saw her play.
“I definitely knew that she was going to be a talented player [coming out of high school],” said Shibles. “But it’s … so difficult to receive this honor with the number of women’s basketball players who compete in Division III that you don’t ever stop to think about [it]. … So, you know, I knew she was a great talent, but I never stopped to consider, ‘is she a future national player of the year?’”
Hasson herself never gave too much thought to the award, even after having played with Kerrigan the year that she won it. Part of that is a product of the way in which Hasson views this recognition—not just as an individual accomplishment but as a prize contingent on the success of the entire team.
“I was aware of the award, but I don’t think it’s necessarily something I thought of,” said Hasson. “And I think part of that, too, is just the fact that this award especially goes to a good player on one of the best teams in the country … not to take anything away from it, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m the best player in the country. If [I’d been on] one of the worst teams, I never would have gotten this award. So I think, in that sense, it’s not really something you think about because there’s the team aspect of it that comes before.”
The announcement of the award came during a turbulent period for the team, which learned the news minutes after being informed that the remainder of the Division III Championships were cancelled due concerns about the coronavirus. Although the players were all aware of the possibility of the cancellation, the realization that the Polar Bears’ season was over, effective immediately, was a challenge.
“The tournament being cancelled … was obviously something we knew was a possibility, but actually hearing it out loud was really, really hard,” said Hasson. “The overwhelming emotion for me and all my teammates is just very sad. And I think that’s just a testament to how much we put in this year and how much confidence we had in what we would have been able to do in the last two weeks. Thinking about all the laughs and new experiences and memories we would have had over the last nine days … to lose out [on those] is just really sad.”
Shibles had actually been informed of Hasson’s achievement a few days before but had kept it a secret. However, after hearing the news of the tournament’s cancellation, Shibles felt it appropriate to reveal the good news as well.
“Of course, I wasn’t going to tell Maddie because I didn’t want to put additional pressure on her with huge games coming up,” said Shibles. “But when we gathered as a team on Thursday to let [everyone] know that our season was done, I just felt like it was appropriate to give [the players] the news together and to give them a little bit of good news. There were tears of sadness before that, but the moment I said that [Hasson had won], there was hugging, smiles and tears of joy.”
In Hasson’s view, most of the cause for this celebration is due to the award being as much for the team as for herself, and it was celebrated by everyone as such.
“I think we all know individual accolades only come from team success. Everyone’s quite aware of that and really takes that to heart,” Hasson said.
Despite the heartbreak of having to end her college career early, Hasson is already thinking about ways to continue with basketball after graduation.
“I want to coach next year as a graduate assistant, but I don’t know where exactly,” said Hasson. “I obviously have great role models in [Shibles] and [Assistant Coach] Megan Phelps. So I think that’s definitely something I’ve become interested in in the past few years, and I want to look into it for next year.”
Hasson’s achievement is a bright spot in the heartbreak of losing the last few games of this season. And although Hasson’s career as a Bowdoin athlete is over, this award will not soon be forgotten.
“What’s so fantastic about this award is not just the fact that Maddie being recognized as the top talent in Division III women’s basketball is incredibly special. It’s a great honor for a team, and it really couldn’t have happened to a nicer person,” said Shibles. “She’s just such a remarkable teammate. That’s just a rare combination when someone is that talented yet humble and ‘team first’ to her core, so, you know, [I’m] just really happy for her.”