Destiney Philoxy’s passing is driving UMass women’s basketball success

  • UMass junior point guard Destiney Philoxy is leading the Atlantic 10 in assists and ranks second in the nation. The Minutewomen return to the court Sunday at La Salle. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/1/2021 2:36:51 PM

Destiney Philoxy makes sure the UMass women’s basketball team stays ready.

Even when the junior point guard is driving hard to the basket looking like shooting is all she wants to do, Philoxy can whip a pass to an open shooter on the wing.

“She’ll find a way to get it out to you somehow,” UMass sophomore Sydney Taylor said.

Philoxy leads the Atlantic 10 averaging 8.3 assists per game. That ranks second in the nation behind Fairfield’s Rachel Hakes (8.8).

“Destiney has been one of our most valuable players. Destiney makes it all happen,” UMass coach Tory Verdi said. “She creates a lot of those points for Sam because she’s collapsing the defense, she’s getting in gaps.”

She has more than doubled her career assist average (3.24) and tied a career high with nine dimes in each of the Minutewomen’s past two games. Philoxy has at least seven assists in every game this season and has maintained a 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio. No UMass player has ever averaged more than 6.4 assists per game over a full season.

“She has grown tremendously. She’s doing something really special for us,” Verdi said. “I think she’s playing at a different level than she’s ever played before.”

Verdi credited the improvement to Philoxy’s growth as a communicator and a leader. She spent her first two years learning the system and largely staying within herself. Now she has full command of the offense and can direct the Minutewomen to the best spots. Philoxy uses her voice more, too. She speaks more during timeouts, free throws and in the flow of the game.

“It goes with knowing my surroundings. I know where my teammates are going to be during certain plays. I know my teammates strengths and weaknesses and try to set them up the best I can,” Philoxy said. “If we’re all on the same page that gives us a better chance of winning. I like talking.”

Her unselfishness has been contagious. UMass leads the conference with 18 assists per game and is first in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.16). Sharing the ball that well has translated to victories for the 5-1 Minutewomen.

“She’s comfortable and she’s confident and it’s making a world of difference on the court,” Verdi said. “It’s pretty special watching her play right now.”

PACKED SCHEDULE – UMass last played Dec. 13, when the Minutewomen edged St. John’s at the buzzer in a thriller. They were supposed to play Saint Joseph’s on Friday, but positive COVID-19 tests in the Hawks program forced them to pause team activities. Friday’s game was postponed, and now UMass will face four games in a stretch of seven days.

The Minutewomen travel to La Salle at 2 p.m. Sunday then host three games in a row at the Mullins Center: Rhode Island on Tuesday (6 p.m.), Davidson on Jan. 8 (5 p.m.), and Fordham on Jan. 10 (1 p.m.).

“It’s taking it day by day and focusing on La Salle right now and focusing on us,” Verdi said. “We want to be systematic and continue to do the signs that we’re doing well on both sides of the ball then you prepare for your opponent.”

DONNELLY DEBUT – Verdi expects sophomore Maeve Donnelly to make her season debut Sunday. She hasn’t played yet this season due to concussion protocols, but she practiced Friday.

“Now it’s just getting acclimated to everything and getting up and down the floor,” Verdi said. “I expect her to be in uniform.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.


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