Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, June 15, 2024

Senior Profile: Maggie Russell, Tufts’ ultimate women’s basketball force

Scoring the second-most career points in team history, forward Maggie Russell leaves behind big shoes to fill.

Maggie Russell 6.jpg

Maggie Russell shoots in a Jan. 13 game against Hamilton.

When most people think of Tufts women’s basketball in the past few years, the first name that typically comes to their mind is Maggie Russell. As a dominant 6-foot-1 forward, Russell played an important role in the Jumbos’ success throughout her career. She didn’t just play an important role on the court though; she was also impactful off the court as a role model for the younger players.

“Maggie definitely had an outstanding and prolific role on our team,” first-year forward Hope Nardone said. “[She led] primarily through example, I mean, she was a really tough player. [She was not] only talented but also very gritty and hardworking, for sure. [She was] kind of quiet but her actions spoke louder than words.”

Russell knew the role she played as a role model on and off the court and prioritized being there for the first-year players in their transition to college. Her role models on the team were the seniors when she was a first-year.

“I remember, my freshman year, how great the senior captains were,” Russell said. “I just worshiped them. I was like, ‘This is who I want to be when I’m a senior and who I can be.’”

Russell tried to play that same role for the first-years this season as a senior captain, and that effort did not go unnoticed.

“I remember all the freshmen got lunch with captains, including Maggie, and they were all asking about our transitions and how we were getting along with school and friends and roommates and dorms,” Nardone said. “Whenever [Maggie] walks into a room, [she] is pretty much always smiling and asks you how you’re doing [and] how your day was. She generally does care a lot about each and every one of us.”

On the court, Russell can be described as nothing short of prolific. Scoring 1,460 points for the Jumbos, she led the offense and accumulated a list of awards in her four years longer than some teams combined. She became an impact player right off the bat, playing in 21 games her first year, before starting in 22 games during her sophomore year and then in every game her junior and senior years. In the 2022–23 season, the Jumbos made a run deep in the NCAA playoffs after bringing home a NESCAC championship to Medford, which is Russell’s favorite memory at Tufts.

“Winning the 2023 [NESCAC] Women’s Basketball Championship in Cousens gymnasium … was just such an amazing experience and a great atmosphere — and then we went on to the Elite Eight,” Russell said. “Being able to win that and celebrate that with all my teammates was truly an amazing moment that I will never forget.”

That season, Russell scored a whopping 573 points and led nearly every stat category. And in the few stat categories she wasn’t leading, she still fell within the top three or five players. In the NESCAC quarterfinal game against Bowdoin, Russell scored a career-high 40 points, going a perfect 16–16 from the free throw line. She was awarded the D3hoops First Team All American Award, the D3hoops Region 1 Women’s Basketball Player of the Year and the NESCAC Player of the Year that season, among other awards. She also scored her 1,000th career point in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight game versus Christopher Newport.

The 2023–24 season was expected to end on an even higher note for the Tufts basketball program. Unfortunately, that didn’t end up being the case for the squad, as they finished 11–13 in the season and 3–7 in the conference. As the constant ray of sunshine that she typically is, Russell tried to maintain a positive view of the season.

“Overall, it wasn’t the season we hoped for at all, but it was great to be able to play with all my closest friends,” she said.

In her senior season, Russell scored 460 points, averaging 19.2 points per game. She also recorded seven double-doubles. After finishing her last game, Russell played 2,555 total minutes.

Tufts women’s basketball served as an important experience in her life that taught her many valuable lessons.

“The most important lesson I’ve learned is to always be there for your teammates. You never really know what anyone’s going through,” Russell said. “The most important lesson in life is [learning] who you can be to others and how you can support your teammates, who are also pretty much your family, and who you spend all your time with and are your best friends.”

On the court, other players, coaches, commentators and fans could be confident that if the team needed a player to put in just a little more work to score a few more points, make another block or just simply never give up, that player was almost always going to be Maggie Russell. Off the court, whether the team won or lost, whether the morale was high or low, she was always the player to cheer on her teammates or console them if needed.

Russell is leaving big shoes to fill but is confident in the program’s future. She offered advice to incoming first-years.

“Don’t take any moment for granted and just work as hard as you can while enjoying the people around you,” she said.

That was the mentality that Russell played with in her four years, and it’s that mentality which led her to be one of the most successful players in the program’s history. She has left an impressive legacy that will last for years to come.