BY STEVEN SOUSA // Feb. 16, 2018 //
Since coming on campus as a freshman, Emily Irwin has been re-writing the Curry College Women’s Basketball record book and has since etched her name in one more spot.
On Jan. 20, 2018, the Billerica native achieved something that only a few other student-athletes have been able to accomplish at Curry, score 1,000 points as a junior.
Almost as impressive as achieving this feat as a junior, this is also the second time Irwin has scored 1,000 points in her illustrious amateur career, surpassing the millennium mark over her four years at Shawsheen Technical High School from 2011-2015.
At this point, it’s hard to believe but Irwin was once deemed just not good enough.
She was cut from her travel team in fifth grade and then was only good enough to make the ‘B’ team in following two years. It wasn’t until eighth grade when Irwin finally broke through with the best.
How did she fight from being cut to being one of the best in a matter of four years? How did she score 1,000 points in both high school and college? The answer is the same.
“Constant practice,” Irwin stated simply. “If I ever gave it up for a year or two I wouldn’t be the same.”
In the three years that Colonels’ head coach Fran Elms has coached her, that drive has been what stuck out to him.
“There’s a motor that she has that others don’t have,” said Elms. “She’s driven to go as hard as she can, as long as she can.”
Elms recalled the first time he saw Irwin play, back in her AAU days. She sent him an email talking about her interest in the nursing program at Curry, but also in playing basketball. Elms figured he would give her a look but she was playing hurt at the time.
“She looks like a tough kid so maybe we’ll keep an eye on her,” Elms thought post-game.
That statement turned out to only be scratching the surface of her durability as she went on to break her nose and wrist on top of suffering horrible blood blisters on her feet. However, after three years, the only game she has missed was because of a nursing conflict, not due to injury.
What sold the coaching staff on Irwin was when assistant coach, Stacey Cotter, watched her play one of the best AAU squads in the state. Irwin’s team was outmatched but she put on a show.
There was a particular sequence in transition where Irwin was handling the ball and made a one-handed pass from half court to the baseline that displayed her ability and vision which convinced Cotter that the Colonels needed her.
Ever since then, Irwin and the coaching staff have developed a relationship that seems to bring out the best in each other.
“I drive them nuts, they drive me nuts, but we kind of have an understanding,” Irwin noted. “And they definitely push me as well.”
From day one, Irwin has been in the backcourt for Curry and despite seeing a seven-point increase in points-per-game from her freshman to junior year, Elms said that her role on the team hasn’t changed much.
“She matured with the game, she’s learned more of when to shoot, when not to shoot, not to the best of her ability yet but she’s matured that way,” said Cotter.
Elms echoed her statement, saying that it went from him calling all the plays her freshman year to Irwin calling about 50% of the plays in her junior year.
Irwin has also grown as a leader during her tenure at Curry, achieving captain status in her third year.
“She’s not one to miss, not one to skip, not one to take a play off,” Elms said. “She might not be as vocal but I think she leads by example and speaks up when she’s supposed to.”
The 5’6” guard has a relentlessness and a fearlessness to her. In fact, she leads the Commonwealth Coast Conference with 9.5 free-throw attempts per game, almost four full attempts over the next closest.
“She wants to get to the rack and sometimes she doesn’t see the five people in front of her,” Elms said.
“Usually I do after I go to the bench,” responded Irwin.
In addition to her tenacity, she also has a lot of selflessness to her. She didn’t even know she was approaching the 1,000-point milestone until Elms informed her a few days before the game, and even then she just wanted it to be over.
“I’m kind of happy it’s over in a sense because now I don’t have to worry about it or hear about it,” said Irwin.
However, for a while in that game against the Gordon Fighting Scots, the milestone was in great doubt. After the first half, Irwin recorded 0 points, missing on all seven shots taken.
Things turned around in the third frame as she finished 5-6 from the field, moving to within nine points of the benchmark. With time bleeding out in the final quarter, Irwin inched closer and closer but still hadn’t scored that 1,000 point with under a minute remaining.
She took the ball on the wing and drove to the basket to lay one in with 38 seconds showing although the Colonels still trailed 54-47. Irwin finished with a single-game record of 37 shot attempts and only needed to make 10 of them to enshrine her forever.
“Emily’s not an individual or statistic person, she’s all about the team,” Elms explained. “If its two points or 32 points, it doesn’t matter to her. All that matters is that she wins that game.”
She now sits at number 18 overall on the all-time scoring list at Curry College and the fifth-highest woman scorer, just 333 points behind Kylie Beltz, who finished her career with 1,465.
With a year of eligibility remaining, surpassing Beltz is certainly within her reach but she’s not concerned with it in the slightest bit. Her goal for next year is simple.
“Go to the championship and win it, win it all,” said Irwin emphatically. “I want it.”
Before then, the Colonels end the 2017-2018 regular season tomorrow afternoon when they host Eastern Nazarene for a 1 p.m. tip-off.
Curry currently holds the #6 seed in the playoffs with a 7-10 CCC record while the Lions cling on to the final seed with a 6-11 record in the conference.