2017-'18 Season Coverage
updated: 2/8/2018 5:39 PM

For Grant’s tough cookie Harrity, this career choice was easy

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  • Grant's Mallory Harrity, left, chases down a loose ball as Grayslake North's Abbey Guenther defends during Thanksgiving tournament play at Mundelein. Harrity is pursuing a future as a police detective.

      Grant's Mallory Harrity, left, chases down a loose ball as Grayslake North's Abbey Guenther defends during Thanksgiving tournament play at Mundelein. Harrity is pursuing a future as a police detective.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Grant's Mallory Harrity, left, drives past Stevenson's Madison Wicklund during Class 4A regional play last season.

      Grant's Mallory Harrity, left, drives past Stevenson's Madison Wicklund during Class 4A regional play last season.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 

The dream wasn't to be a ballerina.

Or a lawyer. Or a teacher. Or a singer. Or a nurse. Or a hair stylist. Or an actress.

Or any of the other types of grown-ups that her friends aspired to be when they were little girls.

From a very young age, Mallory Harrity wanted to be different. She wanted to be a police detective, of all things.

"It was very different, but when I would tell people in my family that's what I wanted to be, they'd always be like, 'Oh, we could totally see you doing that,' " Harrity said. "I think it's because of how tough I am. People have always seen me as the tough girl. And cops have to be very tough."

Harrity, Grant's tough-as-nails 6-foot center who is widely considered the best big girl in the Northern Lake County Conference if not all of Lake County, certainly isn't a pushover.

But being tough on the basketball court while fighting for position in the paint, battling for rebounds and being the most targeted player for a team that is 21-7 and in position to clinch a share of the NLCC championship, almost seems like the easy part for her.

At age 17, Harrity, who is coming off her best game of the season on Tuesday with 30 points and 14 rebounds against Round Lake, has been forced to show her toughness in everyday life, day after day after day. For years now.

A self-described tomboy, Harrity lost her running mate, her favorite partner in crime, nearly three years ago. Her father Dan died suddenly. It was a suicide.

Harrity was about to start her sophomore year at Grant and was simply devastated.

"The death of a parent is indescribable," Harrity said. "But when you get into suicide, it's a whole different level. You blame yourself. My dad and I were close. I was always a daddy's girl. I loved to be outside with him. I was a tomboy and I loved having that relationship with him because he didn't have a boy.

"When it happened, I was like, 'What did I do? What did I say? What could I have done differently?'

"It was so tough getting through that, feeling like it's your fault."

But Harrity's mother Carrie was tough, too. She knew she had to be.

She refused to let either of her daughters, Mallory or older sister Mackenzie, a college student now at Tennessee-Martin, be consumed with sadness or guilt.

"I can't even put into words how I feel about my Mom," Harrity said. "I would be nowhere without her. She made it her commitment that she would not let me or my sister shut down. She was committed to making us understand that we couldn't blame ourselves. She was committed to keeping us going and to helping us stay tough.

"What we've been through as a family has been so hard, but she told us that can't keep us from growing and staying on the right track. I appreciate her for that so much."

One of the ways Carrie Harrity kept Mallory on the right track was to make sure she kept up her busy sports schedule as normal.

Mallory grew up playing multiple sports, and she loved that.

Her dad especially liked watching her play soccer, and she did that starting as a young grade schooler and continuing all through middle school. She was also involved in volleyball, basketball and track for years and years.

As a freshman at Grant, Harrity made the varsity basketball team, where she played for the first of four head coaches through her career. Yes, four.

Harrity played for Matt Lukemeyer as a freshman, Kathie Swanson as a sophomore and part of her junior year, Chris Van Alstine for the second half of her junior year and Kevin Geist this season.

Another tough situation for the tough-as-nails Harrity.

"I'll be honest, I'd never wish that on anyone," Harrity said of her ride on the coaching carousel. "I respect every single coach I've had at Grant and I've learned something from each one of them. But it's really hard to improve and develop your game when you have to play for all these different coaches and get used to all these different coaching styles.

"It's been a challenge."

But typical of Harrity, she didn't back down. Didn't give up. She was, and is, tougher than that.

Harrity kept working. Her goal was to be the best big girl in the area by her senior year.

"I should be the best big girl around here. I've been around the longest," Harrity said with a laugh. "I've played with a lot of great post players in my career, like Taylor Drake (now playing at IUPUI in Indianapolis), and I've played against a lot of great post players who have really pushed me and made me a better player."

Harrity is averaging about 17 points and 10 rebounds this season for Grant. She says the strongest part of her game is her rebounding. Her goal is to come down with every board, and she usually comes pretty close.

"You're going to have to box me out if you want to stop me," Harrity said.

But first-year Grant coach Kevin Geist says Harrity has been so much more than just a rebounder, or even the team's leading scorer for that matter. He appreciates the help Harrity has given him as a leader as he has transitioned into his new job.

"There's too many good things to say about Mallory," Geist said. "She's a leader on and off the court, she leads by example. She's the first person at the gym. She picks the team up when they need it. She talks, she communicates. She's like a coach on the floor. She's a captain for a reason. She's an excellent example for young girls to watch.

"And she's been through a lot. But she's been nothing but helpful and great and wonderful."

And tough. Don't forget tough.

Harrity is ready to use her toughness again next year, in her next venture. Not on the basketball court, but on the road to her dream job.

She'll hang up her hightops for good at the end of Grant's season so that when she gets to college next fall at Arkansas State, which has a top-notch criminal justice department, she can focus solely on preparing for her career.

She had many college coaches interested in her for basketball over the last few months, but Harrity says that she's known for the last year or so that she wanted to turn the page on basketball once she was done at Grant.

"Now that I'm having such a good senior season, it's been kind of hard for me because I sometimes I think, 'Well, maybe I should try to play basketball in college,'" Harrity said with a laugh. "But I would like to focus on my academics when I first get to college. Basketball in college is such a huge commitment.

"Maybe when I get settled in at Arkansas State and I'm feeling comfortable there and I'm doing well in my classes, maybe I would walk on to the team. Maybe I'll miss basketball and I'll want to play again. I guess that's always (on the table).

"Maybe they could use me."

A strong, relentless rebounder, who is tough-as-nails both inside and out? Yes, any team could use that.

pbabcock@dailyherald.com

• Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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