Friday, January 8, 2010

Fairfield's Geehan Steps Up in Big Way

Those at Fairfield who have known women's basketball standout Stephanie Geehan for the past four years recall her as a shy, humble person whose spoken interactions rarely extended beyond a word or two when she arrived for her freshman year.

"She was perfectly content to stand in the back of the room and go unnoticed," says Fairfield's associate sports information director Chris O'Connor. "Now, she's a lot more outgoing. She is unbelievably funny. She always leaves you with a smile on your face. She has made the prototypical development from freshman to senior in terms of what a college is supposed to do for you."

The same can be said for the 6-foot-2 Geehan's on-court work, too.

After serving primarily as an effective role player for her first three years with the Stags, Geehan has made an effective, if not spectacular, move into a featured role.

That progression was much needed for a team that graduated four players after last season who had each played at least 115 games over their respective careers.

Usually that type of personnel loss results in a rebuilding process, but Geehan's development from behind-the-scenes' secondary option to full-fledged standout has kept Fairfield strong this season. The Stags, entering a showdown with league powerhouse Marist tonight (Friday, Jan. 8) are one of three remaining unbeaten teams (2-0) in league play and 8-5 overall.

Geehan, who averaged a solid 8.7 points and 8.4 rebounds as a junior last season is turning in 14.8 and 12.5 numbers in those respective categories this year.

"She has improved just tremendoustly," said Fairfield coachJoe Frager. "It hasn't been so much a tangible improvement in her skills, but in her own sense of confidence. She is a much-more confident player this year. She's not thinking as much on the floor. She's just reacting and playing and doing instinctive things on both ends of the court.

"In the past she viewed herself as a complimentary player, but with a little gentle prodding from coaching staff, she has become a force. She really is so unassuming and she puts the team before herself. But, how, if she's not aggressive on offense she's actually hurting our team."

The one constant in her game has been an ability to block shots. She recorded a conference record 96 rejections last season, and is on pace to surpass that this season, averaging 3.54 blocks per contest. If she continues to block shots at her current rate, she will finish with over 100 rejections this season.

Geehan's work not only ranks among the best in the MAAC, but the best nationally. Her rebound-per-game average was fifth-best nationally through games of Jan. 3, and since then she turned in a 20-rebound performance that lifted her average from 11.8 to 12.5. He blocked-shots-per-game average is sixth-best nationally.

Her top-6 position in two statistical categories nationally makes her the only MAAC women's player to rank in the top six for even a single statistic.

Geehan also has nine double-double performances to date, the third-most of any women's player nationally. She nearly had a triple double in a recent game, recording 10 points, 10 rebounds and 9 blocked shots in a recent loss to Sacred Heart.

Over her career she already has 215 blocked shots, the third-highest total in MAAC history. She should easily surpass the conference's all-time mark of 244 recorded by a former Fairfield standout Gail Strumpf (1997-2001).

It surely is enough for Geehan to be the front-runner for the conference's Most Improved Player award, if not to get her into the conversation for Player of the Year recognition.

Her plight for the league's top individual award would get a boost tonight with a strong effort against Marist and a match-up with the Red Foxes' two-time Player of the Year award winner 6-1 forward Rachele Fitz.

None of that, though, appears to concern Geehan.

"I'm just working hard, trying to do the best I can to help the team," said Geehan, in a recent phone conversation. "Yes, my role has changed, but considering how many people graduated from our team last year, everyone's role on the team has changed."

O'Connor said Geehan probably wouldn't even be aware of her lofty position on the national statistical charts if others didn't tell her.

"That doesn't make a difference to me," she said. "I'm happy as long as our team is winning. I don't know if I'm improved as a player (over last season), or it's just a matter of trying to do what my team needs me to do."

Clearly while Geehan has made a personal transformation from her early days at Fairfield, she remains hesitant to speak about her work on the basketball court.

There, though, actions speak louder than words, and Geehan's work there has spoken volumes this season.

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