Larceny. A heist. The ol’ five-finger discount. In most circles, it’s a case of breaking the law. In the case of all-divisions NCAA steals leader Madison Rowland out of Queens, it’s a case of breaking opponents’ backs.
“Madison’s ability to give us a timely steal has been a game-changer time and again,” says the Knights’ fifth-year head coach Elizabeth Naumovski, who has guided the program to three straight D2 East Coast Conference titles. “Her knack for shooting the gap for a steal, and a subsequent lay-up, leads to dramatic momentum shifts.”
Mind you, Rowland’s steals aren’t so much timely as they are, well, all the time. The 5-foot-10 senior wing and Shaker High (N.Y.) product is averaging 4.7 takeaways through 26 games for the 23-3 Knights (16-1 ECC). Not surprisingly, Queens has won 15 in a row entering Wednesday’s (February 22) regular-season finale at conference rival Daemen. Thanks in large part to their senior playmaker, the Knights are the nation’s No. 14-ranked team in the latest WBCA Division II poll.
Rowland, 20, is plenty more than a ball hawk as well. She’s averaging 21.3 points per game (on 50.8 percent shooting from the field) along with 10.2 boards and 4.0 assists. She’s been named ECC Player of the Week four weeks running and seven times this season.
Along the way, the career milestones are mounting: She set the ECC steals record with her 459th on Feb. 8 (that total is now 479) as well as the Queens scoring record — she’s now at 2,231–having passed alumnae Shalonda Young on Feb. 11. In the Knights’ most recent win, Rowland ripped down her 1,000th rebound and became the first player in program history to reach the 2,000 point-1,000 rebound plateau.
A lesser-known sidebar to Rowland’s remarkable senior campaign is the fact it has been a family affair. Big sister MacKenzie, 21, is a 6-foot-2 post for Queens as a redshirt senior and, like Madison, averages a double-double with 18 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game. Madison and MacKenzie’s younger sister, 5-foot-10 junior guard Merrick, is averaging 8.2 points and 3.5 rebounds off the bench for the Knights.
Family ties notwithstanding, there’s little doubt that the 2016-17 Knights will rise or fall on the performance of their senior standout. And if Queens is to advance further than last season’s high-water mark of the second round of the NCAA tournament, it may just come down to Madison Rowland dispossessing an opponent at a critical juncture.
“Madison’s (ability to take away the basketball) allowed us to come back from a 15-point deficit to win the 2015 ECC Championship,” says Naumovski. “In fact, many opponents will not start the offense on the side that Madison is defending to avoid the risk of a turnover. That is definitely a dimension that not many teams have.”