Molinari Gives Millis Quintet A Presence In The Paint Power Forward a Co-captain, TVL All-star
By KEN HAMWEY
Staff Sports Writer
Mia Molinari is a top-notch basketball player but what makes her really special are her priorities — she’s not afraid to do the gritty things that often make a difference.
The 5-foot-8 power forward, a senior co-captain and a two-time Tri Valley League all-star at Millis High, excels in the paint where grit and guile are the keys for survival.
Molinari would rather grab a rebound than score a basket, and she’d prefer to drive to the hoop instead of taking a shot on the perimeter. She’s not afraid to establish position to corral a rebound and her mind-set is focused on defense.
The 18-year-old Millis native is the kind of basketball player the late ‘Red’ Auerbach (Boston Celtics legendary coach/general manager) would have admired greatly. Auerbach once said, “A great rebounder is more valuable than a great shooter because you can’t score without the ball.’’
“There’s a lot of things to like about being a power forward,’’ Molinari offered. “I enjoy battling for position, rebounding and getting second-chance points. I also like driving, then pulling up for a mid-range shot. My style is to be aggressive and do the gritty things under the boards. Reading defenses is another key for success.’’
Last year, Molinari averaged 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds, helping the Mohawks compile a 13-9 record that led to a quarterfinal-round appearance in the tourney. Millis bowed after two playoff triumphs, losing to Taconic Regional.
“That was disappointing,’’ Molinari said. “We were hoping to advance to the semifinals but that setback has motivated our team.’’
One of Molinari’s team goals is for the Mohawks to qualify for the tourney, make a deep run and compete for a state title. Her other team goals are to battle for the TVL Small Division crown and to improve daily.
“My individual goals are to repeat as a league all-star, be the best captain I can be and strive to post double-doubles every game,’’ she said. “I also want to expand my game, taking more outside shots.’’
Molinari believes her goals are realistic. “Playing in the TVL against teams in Division 3 and 4 is great preparation for the playoffs,’’ Molinari emphasized. “We’ve also got talent, experience and team chemistry.’’
The Mohawks opened their season with a 2-1 record, defeating Lunenberg and Blackstone Valley Tech and losing a two-point decision to Dover-Sherborn. Molinari scored 25 points and had eight rebounds in three quarters against Lunenberg, sitting out the final period in the 51-26 victory. She averaged 18.3 points and 8.6 rebounds in the three games.
Millis coach Dave Fallon admires Molinari’s work ethic, her leadership and her willingness to do the unsung things that make a difference.
“Mia has lots of energy and a high basketball IQ,’’ Fallon said. “She’s athletic, strong, has good hands and finishes strong around the hoop. A captain who shoots well from mid-range, she’s a quality leader and a great ambassador for her school and her community.’’
College recruiters pursued Molinari early because of her team-first approach. She earned a scholarship for academics and athletics from the College of St. Rose, a Division 2 school in Albany.
“I’ll major in health sciences then go to nursing school,’’ said Molinari who has a 4.1 GPA and is a two-year member of the National Honor Society. “I had offers from some Division 3 colleges in the Northeast but I really liked the coaching staff at St. Rose. The coach, Whitney Edwards, saw me play about seven times for my AAU team and for Millis.’’
If recruiters saw Molinari last year against Bellingham, they would have seen her at her best. “I scored a career-high 19 points, had 13 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 three-pointers,’’ she recalled. “I drove well and was able to expand my game in a winning effort.’’
Molinari’s most thrilling game, however, was against Tyngsboro as a freshman in the state tourney. “I didn’t play much as a freshman but I did play in that tourney game,’’ she said. “I guarded a key player, performed well in pressure situations and showed I was reliable. With a minute to go, we were down three but we rallied and won, 50-45. They missed a shot, we got a steal and Abby Miller hit four free throws. I didn’t score but I was pleased with my effort.’’
Molinari, who leads by example and is communicative and supportive as a captain, likes the efforts of senior co-captain Lily Avakian and junior Kyra Rice.
“Lily plays on the wing and is one of our hardest workers,’’ Molinari noted. “She strives to improve and is a great leader. Kyra is a versatile point guard who’s a play-maker, has good moves to the hoop and can shoot a three-pointer.’’
Fallon also gets high praise from Molinari. “Coach Fallon is a fantastic motivator who’s always prepared,’’ she said. “He’s optimistic and really invested in the team’s welfare.’’
Calling her parents (Carlo and Lynn) and her grandmother (Bev Damigella) role models for their support and encouragement, Molinari relies on an athletic philosophy that stresses winning, reaching one’s potential and having fun.
“Winning and improving are very important but you must have fun,’’ she said. “And valuable life lessons that I’ve learned from sports include how to overcome adversity, how to lead and be a good teammate, and how to trust the process. Trusting the process means trusting your coach and teammates and understanding that success takes time. I didn’t play much as a freshman, but I eventually became a starter, a captain and an all-star.’’
Molinari, who also runs track for Millis (sprints/long jump) is acutely aware that her transition to college ball will be smooth if she commits to several factors. “I’ve got to be physically and mentally tough, improve my skills, get faster and quicker, and appreciate any opportunities that come my way,’’ she emphasized.
One activity Molinari enjoys that speaks volumes about her leadership ability is being a student ambassador for the MIAA (Mass. Interscholastic Athletic Association). “I represent Millis High at meetings,’’ she said. “We make suggestions and find ways to enrich our teams.’’
Mia Molinari is an all-around talent — in the classroom, in the athletic arena and in extracurricular activities. Her future should be bright.