Basketball a passion play for E-town’s Erin Boley

February 16, 2016 FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

Life is good for Erin Boley.

The Elizabethtown basketball star is the first 3,000-point scorer in school history, already a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in Kentucky, a Notre Dame signee, a McDonald’s All-American, one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Trophy that goes to the top girls’ player in the nation, a straight-A student, and newly crowned homecoming queen.

Life can get better for Erin Boley, though. At least she’s determined to make it so.

“She’s always been a type-A personality, being a perfectionist in school and everything she does,” said Scott Boley, her dad. “She always wants to get better at everything. She has that passion.”

E-town Coach Tim Mudd will vouch for Erin’s dedication to basketball.

Erin Boley

Erin Boley

“Her practice doesn’t really start until we’re done with our team practice,” he said. “That’s when she goes to work most days. By herself, with her dad, with me or with whoever she can get to rebound for her.

“Because she’s such a tireless worker, she’s gotten better every year. She’s developed every part of her game, be it ball-handling, passing or shooting.

“The drive and passion she has are unlike any kid I’ve ever coached.”

Scott Boley was an all-state player at LaRue County and led the Hawks to the Sweet Sixteen in 1987 and 1988. (They lost to Richie Farmer-led Clay County in the quarterfinals both years.) But he said his work ethic as a high school player paled in comparison to his daughter’s.

“She makes me realize how lazy I was, looking back,” he said with a smile. “When practice was over I was exhausted and hungry. But she keeps at it. I wasn’t motivated like she is. I didn’t have that kind of drive.”

Erin decided when she was 12 that basketball would be her sport of choice. Up until then she split her time between hoops and fast-pitch softball.

Scott Boley remembers driving home with his daughter from a softball tournament in Columbus, Ohio, in the summer of 2010. “That’s when she told me she wanted to concentrate on basketball long term.”

That fall Erin earned varsity playing time as a seventh-grader for E-town, and her career has been on an upward arc ever since.

She’s been E-town’s top scorer and rebounder since she was an eighth-grader. The past three years she’s averaged more than 20 points a game. The 6-foot-2 senior is averaging 25 points and 11 rebounds this season for the Panthers, who have been rated No. 1 in the state for much of this winter.

Boley’s disappointment with E-town not finishing No. 1 the past two years helps stoke her determination.

In 2014, the Panthers lost to Butler in the state finals. In 2015, they were solid favorites to win the championship, but they lost to eventual champ Covington Holy Cross 41-40 in the quarterfinals.

“For me personally, losing those games is something I never really got over,” she said. “It keeps that fire going, and now, knowing this is my last shot, it’s a huge motivation for me to help this team get back there.”

Boley can play any position on the floor. She’s got the size and strength of a post player, and she’s got the skills of a guard. She’s shooting 52 percent from three-point range this season (49 of 94), and 43 percent over the last five years (152 of 350). She’s an 84 percent free-throw shooter in her career.

“She’s a great teammate, too,” Mudd said. “She’s humble, and she has a passion to win. If she gets 31 points and we lose, she’s still incredibly upset. You can’t say that about a lot of kids in today’s world.”

Boley long ago became accustomed to the spotlight.

She got a scholarship offer from Western Kentucky University as an eighth-grader, and over the next couple of years the national powers started wooing her. She really liked Stanford and its academic and athletic stature. Boley made two visits to Connecticut, a dynasty in women’s college basketball.

But Notre Dame was the school that caught her fancy, and she commited to the Irish before her junior season.

“I was very blessed with the recruiting process and being able to choose from so many great schools,” Boley said. “The reason I decided so early was that Notre Dame was such a perfect fit for me.”

Mary Beth Boley was delighted with her daughter’s decision. Mary Beth comes from a large Catholic family whose default favorite team (after Kentucky) is Notre Dame.

“I said after she visited Notre Dame and got the offer, I felt like between my priest and my parents praying about it that it wasn’t going to go any other way,” Mary Beth said with a laugh.

Coach Muffet McGraw’s Irish are a national power. They won the NCAA title in 2001, and they’ve reached the Final Four the last five years in a row. Notre Dame is currently ranked No. 3 in the nation.

Boley would love to do what Lisa Harrison of Louisville Southern and Ukari Figgs of Scott County did. Each led her high school team to a Sweet Sixteen title, each won Miss Basketball honors, and each played on an NCAA championship team. (Harrison at Tennessee; Figgs at Purdue.)

But it would be wrong to characterize Erin Boley as a basketball-obsessed 18-year-old. Yes, she loves the sport, but she loves life, too.

“I used to think you couldn’t be a great basketball player, be a great student, have a personal life and have a social life,” Mudd said. “I truly used to think you couldn’t do all those things until I coached Erin.

“She’s not an introvert; she’s very social; she has lots of friends; she has a boyfriend; she has a personal life; she’s a 4.0 student; she just won homecoming queen, and she is, without a doubt, the best basketball player I’ve seen.

“So it goes to show you that it can be done.”

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