How a career at a crossroads took Maggie Pina to BU stardom

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Maggie Pina holds the ball against Lehigh (Perry Sosi/WTBU).

By: Ethan Fuller

In spring 2018, Maggie Pina took the next step in her journey as a student-athlete by committing to play collegiate sports. She planned to be a Villanova Wildcat — and join the field hockey team.

Fast forward two years and Pina is instead lighting up the three-point arc for Boston University women’s basketball. The 2020 Patriot League Rookie of the Year has made big shot after big shot to sink conference foes and spark the Terrier offense. But Pina — stone-cold and emotionless on the court — once felt the overwhelming burden of juggling two collegiate offers for two different sports.

“It was very hard,” Pina said in January. “I was throwing up on my car ride home from my visit here because I was so stressed out. I really did love Villanova and the coach was wonderful; when I called her [to decommit] I was in tears.”

Villanova and field hockey hold special value to the BU freshman. The college is on the same road as Pina’s high school and a ten-minute drive from her home in West Chester, PA. Her family is close with members of the coaching staff. And Pina, a three-time all-league award winner, had the talent to make it at the Division I level.

But field hockey is an “equivalency sport,” which means obtaining a full scholarship is all but impossible. Then Marisa Moseley approached Pina with a game-changer: a full ride to BU.

“After all of the money my family put into me and after coming up and visiting with the team, I really couldn’t decide what school I liked better because I loved both coaches, both teams,” Pina said. “It being a full scholarship, I was like, ‘I think I have to decommit and come here,’ and it ended up working out great.”

As much as she loved field hockey, Pina was just as prolific on the high school hardwood. The 5-7 guard is a lifelong basketball player and was a captain for Academy of Notre Dame de Namur, as well as the Catholic Academy League’s leading scorer during her senior year.

“Growing up, the plan had always been to play basketball,” she said. “I played AAU my whole life, and then I was getting to sophomore, junior year and not getting any attention from basketball coaches because of the AAU program I was playing for.”

One of Pina’s early AAU teams, the Chester County Wizards, was largely devoid of offensive talent. She fought for playing time, learning how to create shots for herself and eventually blossoming into the team’s go-to scorer, but the lack of success undoubtedly hurt her exposure.

However, her time with the Wizards cultivated Pina’s “amnesia” mentality — forget the shot that misses and search for the next one. It’s a killer instinct the Terriers emphasize and an attribute every elite bucket-getter possesses.

“I’d have to score 30 points and we’d still lose,” she said. “I just got used to: if I have the ball, I have to score. If it’s a bad game for me, it’s a bad game for everyone.”

Moseley found Pina and was instantly drawn by the shooting potential. Boston University was the only school to extend an offer — but field hockey and Villanova certainly made Pina’s recruitment a battle.

“When we got down to the end I was pretty concerned we weren’t gonna get her,” Moseley said last week. “I did panic at the end because I knew having another perimeter threat would be huge.”

But Pina landed in Boston, and after opening up the season on the bench, she exploded as a sharpshooter. The freshman led the Terriers with 13 points per game in conference play and made a league-leading 50 threes, shooting a scorching 40 percent from beyond the arc. According to Pina, her experience as a center back in field hockey has boosted her vision and lower-body strength. This helps make her such a lethal catch-and-shoot threat and adds surprising power at her size.

“A lot of people are like: legs, legs, you need to use your legs to shoot. But it’s really more of your hips and how fast you can turn. And that’s also really important in field hockey to having a powerful swing,” Pina said.

“For her stature [at 5-foot-7], for her to get the ball off so quickly as a shooter, I’m sure it helps for her hips and leg strength to be what it is,” Moseley added.

The basketball star has not cast field hockey aside. Pina played with and against Caroline Kelly and Gianna Pantaleo — two fellow Terrier freshmen — in high school. She attends games at BU and Boston College and has friends in elite programs around the country.

But Pina, as evidenced by her sensational rookie year, has locked in on basketball. Her team impact and individual gravity as a freshman have surprised many — even her own head coach.

“I’m extremely pleased and excited and proud at what she’s been able to accomplish thus far,” Moseley said. “But if someone said, ‘Did you know this was what you were gonna get out of her freshman year?’ I didn’t.”

Featured image by Perry Sosi.

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