Lewisburg is home to humble Duquesne U. basketball legend
A lot of people in Lewisburg know Amy Irvin.
Many will know her as the wife of Mark Irvin, pastor at First United Methodist Church.
Some will know her as the past president of the Lewisburg Rotary Club.
Others will know her as a retired Marine Corps Major from her speeches at local Veterans Day or Flag Day ceremonies.
As of last weekend, Irvin can also be known, officially, as a legend.
The Atlantic 10 Conference and Duquesne University women’s basketball program invited Irvin to Richmond, Va., last weekend to represent them both, naming her a Legend of women’s basketball in the conference.
“It was a once in a lifetime weekend,” Irvin said. “It was a wonderful honor.”
Established in 2013, the Legends program recognizes student-athletes and coaches who have made a lasting impact on their universities and their basketball programs.
Irvin, then Amy Alger, played Division I basketball at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh from 1985-1989.
She was recruited by larger, better-known programs out of high school in Palmyra, Penn. Penn State University wanted her as a point guard, but that idea didn’t appeal to Irvin.
“I had a chip on my shoulder,” Irvin said. “I wanted to play small forward.”
Listed on the roster in college at five foot eight, Irvin smiled at the extra two inches Duquesne had given her. “I’m five foot six,” she said.
That chip helped her play much taller. She started 19 games as a freshman on her way to finishing her career second on the school’s scoring list with 1,306 points, six points shy of the top spot, and third in rebounding with 735.
Her senior season, despite being hobbled by a high ankle sprain that caused her to miss two games, saw her average more than 16 points, seven rebounds, and three steals per game.
The Atlantic 10 named her to the all-conference third team in 1989, and she was the university’s student-athlete of the year, recognized for her dedication, service, scholarship, and leadership.
Not bad for an undersized forward playing with a chip on her shoulder.
The damage caused by playing through her injury ended the feelers about a possible professional career in Europe, and was severe enough that it threatened her ability to pass her physical for the Marine Corps after graduation.
Irvin’s name still appears all over the record books for the lady Dukes, or Duchesses as the women’s sports teams are called.
Her 39 points in her senior season against cross-town rival, the University of Pittsburgh, is still the second highest individual single-game scoring total in program history. Her 18 made field goals in that game is still first in the records book.
She is still among the leaders in scoring, free throws, steals, and games started for the university. She also scored the first field goal, the first free throw, and contributed the first assist at the Palumbo Center, the campus arena for athletics and special events.
She was inducted into the Duquesne Sports Hall of Fame in 2001, and relished this opportunity to reconnect with the school and the program.
You wouldn’t hear any of this from Irvin though, who, although proud of her career, isn’t one to talk much about it.
It took a chance meeting with her husband Mark to hear about her proudest moment playing basketball.
West Virginia University, an A-10 member at the time, had a six foot seven senior center in 1986 named Georgeann Wells, best know for being the first collegiate woman to dunk in a competitive game.
Irvin out-rebounded the All-American, 11 inches taller, during one of their match ups.
That’s playing with a chip on the shoulder.
Her remarks at the award presentation drew on her time as a collegiate athlete and as a Marine Corps officer.
Off the cuff, she spoke of the importance of addition, not in the mathematical sense, but in the sense of contributing to the team and the overall goal.
Inspired, the coach of the Duchesses asked Irvin to repeat her remarks to the team, who had not arrived in time for her ceremony, before their tournament games started.
Maybe they took them to heart. Maybe, they played with a bit of a chip on their shoulders.
They went on a run through the tournament, becoming the first seventh seed to reach the championship game in conference history, before falling to the top seeded Dayton Flyers.
They played the same way Irvin did, the same reasons the university and the conference named her a legend.
Players aren’t limited by their height, and teams aren’t defined by their statistics, but both are defined by their heart.