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Holiday Fitzgerald Lead
Maggie Fitzgerald of Champaign St. Thomas Moore looked to move the ball against Taylor Ridge Rockridge at the State Farm Holiday Classic, Monday, December 28, 2009. (The Pantagraph, David Proeber)

BLOOMINGTON — There aren’t many opportunities for competitive rowing in Central Illinois. Yet, Champaign St. Thomas More basketball player Maggie Fitzgerald has not found the fact that she has precious little boating experience from being a deterrent to a college scholarship.

Fitzgerald, a 6-foot-2 senior volleyball and basketball standout, has signed a national letter of intent to compete in women’s crew next fall at the University of Wisconsin.

This week, she is competing in the State Farm Holiday Classic and helped her Sabers’ team to a 47-19 victory over Taylor Ridge Rockridge on Monday in the small school girls bracket.

Fitzgerald had a game-high 12 points, and she is the subject of today’s Classic Q&A:

So how does a girl from Central Illinois land a rowing scholarship?

“It’s a funny story. I just kinda got talking with the coach, and they invited me up there for an official visit, and I got to spend a weekend with them. I went to a couple of practices and got to see what it was like. From there, it just fell into place. I think it mostly had to do with the height thing. With volleyball, they could see I had height. With basketball, they could see that I’m athletic. They were looking for a tall, athletic girl. I’m still in the learning process (about crew). It’s 80 percent legs and a lot of cardio and lung capacity. My grandfather went there, and my aunt and uncle both live there. I’m really looking forward to being a Badger. I’m excited, my parents are excited. It’s something new and different that no one in my family has ever done before.”

Volleyball is your first love, but you were injured during the 2008 season. What happened?

“I was in the back row and was going for the ball and dislocated my shoulder. I ended up tearing my labrum, but I wasn’t sure how serious the injury was. I played on it for two months, but things really weren’t getting better. So we found a doctor in Chicago, and I had surgery in July and was out the whole year.”

Champaign is more interesting than Bloomington-Normal because …:

“Fighting Illini.”

You are 6-foot-2. Your teammate Gina Hinders is 6-4. How much of an advantage is that in the small-school bracket?

“It’s awesome. It’s the most fun. I’m so glad I get to play with her. Usually teams can’t guard both of us. So if they’re guarding me, she’s wide open. If they’re guarding her, I’m wide open.”

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