Jackie Mulligan’s earliest memories of Keegan Douglas stretch back to when Douglas was in second grade.
Even in those days, Mulligan, the girls' basketball coach at Haddonfield, doesn’t think she ever saw Douglas without a basketball in her hands.
- Ryan Ems scores 41 points to lead Eastern past Cherry Hill East
- Tuesday’s South Jersey roundup: Bella Runyan tops career 1,000 point mark as Moorestown Friends girls' basketball beats Friends Select
- Monday’s South Jersey roundup: Jalen Boyd-Savage powers Paul IV boys' basketball past Camden Catholic
In a town known for multisport athletes, it was always clear which way Douglas was leaning.
“In kindergarten, I picked up a basketball, and I remember, even at that age, being in the back yard working on my ballhandling, always practicing with my dad,” said Douglas, a sophomore point guard for the Haddonfield girls’ basketball team. “By first grade, I realized that I did have a little bit of talent, and ever since then I’ve just kept with it. It’s been my favorite sport ever since.”
Douglas has been a star for the Bulldawgs since she first put on the uniform. That was no surprise to Mulligan, and she had no reservations about turning over the role of point guard to Douglas as a freshman, and the team had no trouble accepting her.
“Everybody in town knew who Keegan Douglas was as a basketball player,” Mulligan said. “It wasn’t a surprise to anyone that she could step in and be a starting point guard as a freshman.”
Douglas averaged 11.9 points last season and has continued her upward trajectory this season. She is averaging 16.4 points per game for the 12-2 Bulldawgs. On Jan. 12, she scored a career-high 32 points in Haddonfield’s upset of Gloucester Catholic, the top-ranked team in South Jersey at the time.
“We tried to look at it as just another game,” Douglas said. “But we knew that nobody expected us to win. And for me, it just made me want to go harder.”
The performance was a sign that Douglas can hang with the area’s most talented players. It was also further proof of her ability to elevate her game in big moments.
“You can just see it in her facial expression. She has that will to win. It’s ingrained in her. And she has that motor where she just works the whole game,” Mulligan said. “She doesn’t take possessions off. She makes things happen. She makes everybody better.”
Though basketball is her primary sport, Douglas, like many star athletes in Haddonfield, is a three-sport athlete. She plays soccer in the fall and last spring was on a Haddonfield lacrosse team that won a state championship.
“These kids have all had success in different sports. They don’t get rattled,” Mulligan said. “I feel like it makes my job easier. They’ve probably added years to my life because, if they make a mistake they work hard to get it back. I think, as a coach, you can only hope that they give 100 percent effort, and they do that every time.”
For Douglas, there are benefits to not exclusively playing basketball year-round. “A big part of it is just getting to have fun playing different sports with my friends,” she said. “And there are benefits to each sport. ... Soccer is definitely great for my conditioning.”
But even during those offseasons, basketball is rarely far from her mind. And the work that she puts in year-round, she said, makes wins like the Gloucester Catholic game even sweeter.
The Bulldawgs' win over the Rams came just a week after dropping a heartbreaker to rival Sterling on a last-second shot by Nia Holloway.
Beating the Rams was a statement, a sign that the Bulldawgs really don’t get rattled, that they can bounce back stronger.
Last season, Haddonfield advanced to the South Jersey Group 2 title game before falling to Manchester Township in the championship.
Douglas said the team plans to come back stronger from that game, too. By the look in her eye, it’s easy to believe her.