Boston College’s Clare Droesch: A Winner at The Game of Basketball – and the Game of Life.

Clare Droesch, Boston College Class of 2005, lost her long battle with cancer of May 11, 2018. I interviewed Clare before her induction to BC’s Hall of Fame in 2016. The biography of Clare that I wrote for the evening’s program follows.

When the time came for New York’s 2001 High School Basketball Player of the Year to choose a college, she decided that she wanted to build something grand, to be a part of a new tradition. That’s why Clare Droesch spurned offers from Connecticut, Notre Dame, Purdue and others to come from Christ the King High School to Boston College.

“My school was the UConn of high schools. I wanted to go to a place where we’d beat the best teams, where we’d leave a mark and be a school that other kids would look up to and want to go to,” she said.

Clare Droesch carried through. A sharp shooting, fearless point guard and inspirational leader on and off the court, Clare became an indispensable contributor to a golden era of Boston College women’s basketball under coach Cathy Inglese.

Inglese was in her ninth year of coaching the Eagle women when Droesch arrived. Rebuilding had gone well, with winning records in five of the previous six seasons. Still, they’d never won a Big East Tournament. In the previous four years, they’d gone 1-8 against their nemesis, Connecticut.

The Eagles reached the NCAA Tournament in all four years of Clare’s career. They made it to the Sweet Sixteen twice. In 2004 they won the Big East championship after knocking out top-ranked UConn in the semifinals.

In 2005, when Clare was team captain, they defeated Number-One ranked UConn again, in Clare’s final home game. The score was 51-48, and the game was nationally televised – no better way for Droesch to cap off her playing days.

Clare played in 126 games between 2001 and 2005. The Eagles won 92 of them.  If Boston College needed a basket, Clare Droesch wanted the ball in her hands.

during the second round of the Women’s NCAA Tournament Sunday, March 22, 2005, at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill N.C. (Kevin C. Cox/WireImage)

“She had such a desire to win. When the game was on the line, she always wanted to take that last shot. She was also one of the best passers on the team,” said Inglese.

“And in the locker room, before the game, when we were in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament against Connecticut…the way that she got the team fired up. I can’t forget that.”

Droesch was Inglese’s first big-name recruit from New York City. News of her arrival gave the program an additional level of prestige. For her first two years, Clare didn’t start, but she frequently logged more minutes than starters. As a freshman, she earned her a spot on the Big East All-Rookie team.

When Clare graduated in 2005, her 1,136 career points placed her twelfth all-time at Boston College. She was also twelfth in rebounds with 539; sixth in assists with 324; and third all time in three-pointers, with 158. She was honored as an ACC Legend in 2015.

Those impressive accolades and numbers don’t tell the entire story of Clare Droesch. While she always wanted to take her shot at crunch time, she also saw that her primary job was to be the vocal, outspoken bellwether who got every other player charged up to play her best.

“I never had to do that in high school,” she said. “We were a run-and-gun team, and I was the best player, the big scorer. Everyone else just followed me.”

The adjustment to college ball was hard for Clare. She learned to play defense, because, as she puts it “Coach Inglese made it very clear that if you didn’t play defense, you weren’t going to play.”

Even today, it’s “Coach,” not “Cathy” Inglese. “She made me a better overall player. That’s why I succeeded in college. I didn’t do a lot of different things, but I did them in a different way, trying to make myself more valuable to the team,” explains Clare.

“I was the type of player who wanted to do things my own way. But Coach Inglese really knew how to run the offense, and it was a matter of getting the best shot for the team. I was open at some times, but I didn’t always have the green light.”

Hunkering down to conform to the system worked for Droesch’s playing career. And now, as she coaches high school players back in New York, she finds herself employing the same approach that Inglese took with her.

Clare fondly remembers the help and mentoring by Inglese’s assistants, Kelly Cole and Bill Gould. “My rocks as coaches,” she says.

She’s also grateful to Donna Bennett, BC’s assistant director of sports medicine. In junior year, Clare suffered a foot injury and developed plantar fasciitis. The excruciating pain spread up through her shins. Bennett worked with Clare every day, keeping her fit to play with massages, shots, hot packs, and cold packs. Clare played through the pain, never missed a game, and waited until graduation for corrective surgery.

After college, Clare’s pro career was all too brief. While playing in Portugal, she hurt her previously uninjured foot by overcompensating to protect the other one.  So she turned first to college coaching, with stops at UMass-Boston, Vanderbilt, and Saint John’s.

Working with younger, more impressionable athletes was more to her liking, however. She’s now in her fifth year as assistant varsity coach at her high school alma mater, Christ the King. She’s also in her fifth year of a battle with cancer.

On December 19, 2011, Clare was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. Tumors also spread to her spine and hip. Radiation treatments followed, then chemotherapy. Every other Monday, she’s at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The rest of the time, it’s basketball coaching and time with her family – parents George and Patty, and brother George – and friends back in Rockaway.

“My support system has been amazing, both from my family and from my friends at Boston College. When I got sick, I reached out to my BC family. I truly love Boston College. I still go there all the time, and I’m still close with the coaches.”

“I take it as a game,” she said. “Every day’s a game.”

2 Responses to “Boston College’s Clare Droesch: A Winner at The Game of Basketball – and the Game of Life.”

  1. Lynne Moore Says:

    Awww that is really sad to lose such an accomplished young girl.

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