That Drexel guard Rachel Pearson would play basketball was almost foreordained, from birth. And never mind that her mom once wondered if Rachel would be bitten by the same bug that infected the entire family.
That she would become a great shooter was far less certain, though there were strong indications early on that that would be the case.
The story comes courtesy of her dad, Mike, scion of this basketball-obsessed brood. Once a player at Philadelphia’s Cardinal O’Hara High School and Mount St. Mary’s University (and a member of the latter school’s Hall of Fame), he coached Rachel in AAU ball outside Philly when she was 10 or 11.
His eldest daughter, Caitlin, helped him out — understandably, since she also played at Mount St. Mary’s, the first of four girls born to Mike and his wife Rita to earn a Division I scholarship. And at practice one day she was overseeing Rachel and some other girls in a defensive drill at one end of the court, while Mike worked with another group on shooting at the other end.
All at once, Caitlin’s drill came to a halt. Mike, curious, walked downcourt to investigate. And that’s when his youngest daughter informed him she had no interest in this defensive drudgery; she wanted only to come down to his end of the floor and shoot the ball.
Mike, barely suppressing a chuckle, told her to remain. But it was clear she had found her niche in the sport, and that remains the case. Rachel, a 5-11 senior, is averaging 13.6 points a game, second on the team to junior forward Sarah Curran (15.9). Rachel is also shooting 37.9% from 3-point range for the Dragons (9-9), who play host to Hofstra on Friday and Delaware Sunday on ASN.
Pearson, eighth in the CAA in scoring, seventh in 3-point percentage and second in 3-pointers per game (2.6), poured in a career-high 28-points on Jan. 3 against College of Charleston, a game in which she equaled a school record by drilling eight 3-pointers (in 17 attempts). And her career percentage from the arc (.378) is third-best in Dragons history, her makes from there (232) fourth-most.
“And,” Mike said with a laugh, “her defense has developed.”
Mike and Rita (who also played at O’Hara) have six kids altogether, all of whom attended Archbishop Carroll in suburban Philadelphia. The oldest, Mike Jr., played there and for a time at the University of Scranton; he is now a college referee, and his wife Kate coaches the Cabrini College women’s team.
Caitlin is next-oldest, followed by Jessica, who played at Holy Cross, and Megan, who played at Villanova. The only one to avoid all the hoops hysteria was the youngest, Patrick, who competed in crew in high school and now attends West Chester University, not far from his family’s home.
When Rachel was really young, Rita wondered if she had any interest in hoops. She would bring her dolls to her sisters’ games, appearing not to care in the least about what was going on.
“I guess she got it by osmosis,” Rita said, “or was paying attention and we didn’t notice.”
Wasn’t too long before Mike had her out on the court in the driveway.
“He’s definitely the reason I’m the shooter I am today,” Rachel said, “from all those shots he made me take. He’s had a huge impact on my basketball career.”
So too did Megan, closest to her in age. They would have spirited on-court battles, often including a friend in three-person games of “105” (some call it “Taps” or “Rough-house”).
Rachel was part of two state-championship teams at Carroll, and then followed her school’s pipeline to Drexel. Graduated guard Hollie Mershon, three years older, had taken the same route, as did Curran and another one of Rachel’s current teammates, redshirt junior guard Meghan Creighton.
It will come to an end for Pearson all too soon. She is a marketing major, and next year will either go on to grad school or find a job. She will also have to unearth a new athletic outlet; maybe, she said, she will become “a Zumba-crazed person,” since she enjoys that particular form of exercise.
But right now she just wants another shot. Just one more. That’s always the goal.