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Quinnipiac women’s basketball has a star quarterback in the middle in Anna Foley

Anna Foley played on two state championship teams at Andover High before joining Quinnipiac this season.Rob Rasmussen

Anna Foley may be a Division 1 basketball player, but it’s easy to picture her as a quarterback.

The Quinnipiac women’s basketball team has built its offense around the 6-foot-3-inch center from Andover. Foley often receives the ball at the elbows or above the 3-point arc and scans the floor as cutters fly around her. If she spots a crack in the defense, she’ll fire a pass to a receiver for a layup, take off to the basket herself, or shoot over the top.

So far, that versatility has helped her leap seamlessly from high school to college. Foley is one of only 13 Division 1 players nationwide averaging at least 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. She’s one of two freshmen in that group, and the only player to also reach a block per game on defense.

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“A point guard mentality at a 6-3 frame — it’s just so unique,” said Quinnipiac coach Tricia Fabbri.

Fabbri, who has won more than 500 games in 29 years coaching the Bobcats, heaps praise on her star freshman, saying Foley’s game has shades of Dirk Nowitzki and Nikola Jokic. Foley’s court awareness and fearlessness helped give Fabbri the trust to revamp her system to maximize a first-year player.

“Her passing ability is second to none,” Fabbri said. “I’ve always said passing ability — you have vision, but you also have IQ, so you can find people. Her acumen is beyond her years.”

Foley comes from a family of like-minded hoopers. Her father, Will Foley, played four years at Boston College from 1988-92 and also joined the Washington Generals, the long-suffering enemy of the Harlem Globetrotters. Her aunt, Kaitlin Foley (now McCarthy), was a standout at Holy Cross from 2003-07 and played professionally in Spain. Will (6-10) and Kaitlin (6-3) were both centers, which helped them understand the player Foley could become.

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“Just seeing my dad being able to do so many things at his height always made me strive for that, being able to shoot, dribble, and pass,” Foley said. “For my aunt, just seeing the women’s side of it has been great.

“Having a strong role model that really embraces her height, I think is so big, as a tall girl growing up. I think she really owns it so well and has such good strength and pride.”

Foley (left) was a force on offense and defense in high school.ETHAN FULLER

Foley has always been physically strong, and credits her expanded shooting range to her father’s backyard workouts. But the cerebral passing is her separating attribute; the lefty unsurprisingly played quarterback on her school recess football teams.

Foley won two state championships at Andover High, including a perfect 26-0 season last winter, and made two Globe Super Teams in part because she saw the court at a higher level. Those big games at Andover helped ease her into the spotlight.

“Even though these are nonconference games, it definitely feels high-stakes,” she said. “So yeah, I’m very grateful for the stage that I was put on [in high school] and that I had a little bit of experience.”

At Quinnipiac, Fabbri has leaned into her rising star’s abilities. The Bobcats frequently run the “Chin” series of actions within the traditional Princeton offense. Their success hasn’t been perfect, but Fabbri likes the learning she’s seeing from her young roster, led by Foley.

“It’s a lot of cutting and reading off of split screens, and her ability to make the right read off the kids’ cuts as our center is giving us a lot of success in our offense,” she said.

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Foley is still adjusting to the pace and performance of college. She has to process the game faster than ever, and with smaller passing windows. She also must get used to taking some lumps while the young Quinnipiac roster learns to win. The Bobcats, 1-4 amid a tough schedule, have lost more games this season than Foley did in her last two years of high school combined.

“You have to be focused and be ready to compete at all times,” she said. “In practice, you always have to be on, you always have to be communicating. There aren’t really as many windows where you can kind of take a break — you always have to be on.”

Ask Fabbri about the best pass she’s ever seen from Foley, and she’ll take you back to high school at Andover. The longtime coach was in attendance to watch Foley in the Division 1 final against Bishop Feehan last March. She instantly recalls when the center grabbed a rebound and hurled a perfect full-court dime to a teammate for a critical late-game bucket.

Fabbri, a devout Philadelphia Eagles fan, knew she had recruited a special player.

“It was literally like Jalen Hurts throwing to Devonta Smith or A.J. Brown out there,” she said. “Not only was that just smart and an unbelievable play, the kid’s a winner.”

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Poll positions

Massachusetts has some schools making national waves beyond the Division 1 level. In Division 2, Assumption (3-1) was ranked fourth in the most recent WBCA Coaches’ Poll, and is led by former Globe All-Scholastic Marina Callahan from Burlington (19.8 points per game). Bentley (4-1) holds the No. 9 ranking. No. 10 Tufts (5-1) and No. 12 Smith (4-1) earned spots in the Division 3 poll.


Ethan Fuller can be reached at ethan.fuller@globe.com.