- Graham Hays, espnW.com
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HARTFORD, Conn. -- Call it destiny, or perhaps mere probability, but Sam Quigley was always going to make her way through life defined by those with whom she shared a name.
That the name in question is as much the one on the front of the DePaul jersey she wears as the name on the back begins to explain how someone known for years to many in the northeast corner of Illinois as "Little Quigley" made a name for herself as one of the best point guards in college basketball and one of the best captains in the history of a program.
"She's so much more than statistics," DePaul coach Doug Bruno said of the fifth-year senior. "If I chose, she could average 10 assists a game, if we ran a system whereby the point guard distributes all the time. And her leadership, she's just a great vocal leader, but she also knows -- it's almost like you have to see her practice to understand how she's constantly getting everybody [organized]. She really is just like another coach out there.
"And so she's just been one of the most special players I've ever coached."
That control, an ability to lead people and play with equal precision, is the measure of a point guard, and it's at least as rare as the quick first step or crossover dribble that define the position's pretenders. It is also at least partly an illusion worthy of a master magician, like the ability to convince others of your control over uncontrollable circumstances.
As often as not, those who appear most in control of events are those who instead react most quickly to them.
Quigley didn't control the injuries to others last season that left the Blue Demons' roster so decimated that she had to play more than 38 minutes a game, third-most in the nation, including 16 instances in which she never left the court.
"There were maybe one or two times where I was just literally exhausted," Quigley said. "But I would try not to even think about it. I just felt like anything I could do to help the team win I was going to do."
One of those instances was a victory against a Florida State team ranked in the top 10 at the time, a win that ultimately stood out on the résumé that earned the Blue Demons an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Quigley scored a team-high 17 points with five assists and just two turnovers in 40 minutes against the Seminoles, a week after the Blue Demons seemed to hit rock bottom in a 36-point loss at Stanford and less than a month after the biggest injury blow, the loss of leading scorer Deirdre Naughton to a knee injury.
The minutes are more manageable this season with Naughton and China Threatt healthy again in the backcourt, a mere 31 minutes per game for the team that finished second in the Big East during the regular season. But whether in deed, like the Florida State game last season, or word, in a huddle, practice or pause on the court, Quigley is almost always the one who seems predisposed to take control of the moment.
"It is who she is, there's no question about that, that she's got this inner toughness, she's got an inner desire to excel," Bruno said. "She's not a perfectionist in the negative sense of the word; I think she's got a good balance of how she's a classic striver for perfection versus being an obsessive perfectionist. The obsessive perfectionist is hard to deal with. She strives for perfection, but there's a reality there that doesn't make her obsessive about it."
In Quigley's particular reality are the roots of something as seemingly contradictory as pragmatic perfectionism.
She didn't control arriving on the scene as the younger of Pat and Christine Quigley's two daughters, the third of four children in total, and growing up as "Little Quigley" in every respect, younger and smaller than older sister Allie, who finished her DePaul career in 2008 ranked third all-time in points and assists. She didn't control growing up the daughter of two local sporting icons in Joliet, Ill., a town about 50 miles southwest of Chicago that Bruno described as "like a Pennsylvania steel town" when it came to community passion for local sports.
And she certainly didn't control the cancer that killed her father when she was just shy of 7 years old.
"I understood what was going on," Sam recalled of her father's illness and death. "I guess it probably didn't really hit me until my teen years how much we missed him, I guess. I was really young, so I pretty much just remember the day my mom came and told us. It was really sad, but I think we came out stronger, for the better."
Sibling rivalry and the loss of a parent exist in different spheres of significance, but so too did the younger sister navigate her way through the former. Even Sam's smaller stature, which might have made it easier to slip into her sister's shadow, became an asset in its own way, a built-in reason to play a different position in the backcourt. And there isn't much better training for a point guard than spending a lifetime getting the ball to one of the better pure scorers in Big East history.
"I was probably like a little gnat to her," Sam said. "But I think as we got older and I got into the later grade school and high school, we really became friends because we were always around each other, I think, and we all had the same friends. I think we learned to play together. I always felt like I could throw her any pass and she would catch any pass. It's nice to have someone on the court like that, especially when you're a point guard."
Allie is the quiet one, the lithe scorer who held her tongue while getting battered on a drive to the basket, be it in a game of two-on-two pitting sisters against brothers or on the court for Joliet Catholic Academy. And Sam?
"[Allie] would get fouled like eight times, and I'm the point guard, so I'm screaming at the referees," Sam said. "They were probably like, 'Little Quigley, shut up.'"
So when the time came to choose a school, Sam considered going her own way but ultimately felt that joining Allie at DePaul was the best fit.
More often than not, the legions of fans who trek from Joliet to Chicago to watch the last of nine consecutive seasons of Quigleys at DePaul tell Sam, as they told Allie, how much each shares in common with their mom. With Allie's game and Sam's size, at least as Sam breaks it down, Christine starred in basketball, among other sports, at the University of St. Francis.
But after a recent game against Georgetown, Pat Sullivan, Sam's father's basketball coach at St. Francis, approached her with a different message.
As Sam recalled, "The first thing he said to me when I saw him was, 'You look like your dad. You always try to thread the needle. Your dad always did that.'"
All that came with her name helped shaped her. She is Pat and Christine's daughter, Donald Strle's stepdaughter and Allie, Ryan and Jake's sister. Just as she is Bruno's point guard and her team's co-captain. But as she looks to finish her career by leading DePaul somewhere it has never before been, Sam Quigley's name stands on its own. That much she controlled.
Graham Hays is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. E-mail him at Graham.Hays@espn3.com.
17dBonnie D. Ford