Coughlin's hard work defines basketball career at Benilde-St. Margaret's

  • Article by: JIM PAULSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 10, 2013 - 7:19 PM

Guard Grace Coughlin of Benilde-St. Margaret’s loves basketball, and that earned her a scholarship with the Gophers.


Grace Coughlin drove to the basket against the Southwest defense Friday. Coughlin, a 5-8 senior, leads the team in scoring and assists.


As far as careers go, Grace Coughlin is at a loss for what she wants to pursue.

The Benilde-St. Margaret’s senior has tried her hand at journalism — “It wasn’t a good fit,” she said — and has looked into many other possibilities.

“She wanted to be a journalist, then a doctor, then a teacher, then a police officer,” said her sister Allie, a junior. “It changes like every week.”

Understandable, because what Grace Coughlin really loves is basketball. A four-year starter at guard for the Red Knights, Coughlin’s home is the gymnasium, her living room boasting highly glossed hardwood floors with furniture consisting of folding chairs and rows of bleachers.

“I play basketball every day,” Coughlin said. “I worked out at 43 Hoops [basketball training facility] every day in the morning during the summer, 7:30 a.m.”

Benilde-St. Margaret’s coach Bob Lyons has seen his 5-8 guard’s single-mindedness firsthand.

“We often have to tell her to get out of the gym because we don’t want to wear her out and risk injury,” he said.

Coughlin’s dedication to her craft has paid off in a big way. On Nov. 11, she signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Minnesota. It was as much a relief for Coughlin as it was a thrill.

A smooth ballhandler with exceptional court sense, Coughlin was offered a scholarship after her freshman year, but NCAA rules required her to wait until she became a senior to seal the commitment.

“There was more pressure on me after I got the offer because I had to prove I was good enough to keep it,” she said. “A verbal [commitment ] is not a guarantee. I worked harder than ever.”

A self-defined gymrat, Coughlin spent the summer focused daily on redeveloping the part of her game that will define her role at Minnesota.

“I’m a point guard, and that’s what I’ll play there,” she said. “Last year, I played more on the wing and scored more. This year, I’m trying to get back into that role.”

She’s aware that, as a high-profile recruit for the state’s only Division I women’s basketball program, she has plenty of people watching, measuring her skills and tabulating her faults.

“I’m really excited to play for my home state because people already know me,” she said. “Some people have been negative, saying things like I don’t have a Big Ten body, but I just laugh that off. I know it’s a cliché but I really believe it’s not the size of the player, it’s the size of her heart and mind.”

She’s looking forward to playing with such talented players as All-Big Ten guard Rachel Banham and high-scoring guard Carlie Wagner of 2013 Class 2A state champion New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva. Wagner and Coughlin signed with Minnesota on the same day.

“I played with Carlie last summer, and she’s a great player,” Coughlin said. “I can’t wait to see how well we play together.”

Her time at Benilde-St. Margaret’s is proof that Coughlin has the skills and the work ethic to succeed wherever she goes. She scored her 1,000th career point last week, a significant milestone for someone who has been asked to play a different role on the team each year. She leads the team in scoring, assists and hustle, yet never complains about having to take a different role when the team needs it.

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  • Grace Coughlin of Benilde-St. Margaret took a break on the bench during their game against Southwest in Minneapolis on Friday.

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