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The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Changing the game: Suffolk alum finds basketball as an avenue for impact

Courtesy of Jenni-Rose DiCecco.
Former women’s basketball guard Jenni-Rose DiCecco receives her degree at commencement in 2022. DiCecco is the women’s basketball program’s all-time leading point scorer.

For Suffolk University alum Jenni-Rose DiCecco, basketball has grown with her. From playing throughout her childhood to becoming Suffolk women’s basketball’s all-time lead scorer to now coaching for Emerson College women’s basketball and the Boston Celtics’ youth development program, DiCecco’s passion for basketball didn’t end at graduation.

After graduating from Suffolk in 2022 with her master’s in criminal justice studies, DiCecco wasn’t planning on returning to the sport as a coach, but a call from Suffolk women’s basketball head coach Ed Leyden, putting Emerson women’s basketball head coach Bill Gould and DiCecco in touch, changed her mind.

“Once we got to chatting I was like, ‘maybe I do miss basketball. This is a good outlet to get back into it.’ So I was like, you know what, why not? I was living at home at the time, so I wasn’t even in Boston. It was really a complete career change,” said DiCecco.

The conversation with Gould launched DiCecco down an unexpected path, transforming her lifelong passion for basketball as a player into passion as a coach, supporting young athletes in their own journeys.

“I think everyone in my life expected me to be a coach, but I personally didn’t. I didn’t think it was really my thing, I just love playing and that’s it. But now that I’m coaching, I know everyone else was right. I think this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” said DiCecco.

For many of DiCecco’s athletes, her coaching style, personality and experience as a player herself come across in each practice and game, already having an impact on the Lions early in the season.

“One of Jenni-Rose’s greatest strengths as a coach, in my opinion, is her dedication to encouraging our team to work hard every single day. Her approach to coaching is based on encouraging a culture of constant hard work and growth,” said Ella Bushee, an Emerson senior guard majoring in communication studies. “She pushes us every day to become better players, individually and as a team.”

DiCecco has also made an impact in the community through her position as an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics’ youth development program, which focuses on providing opportunities for building both sport-specific and crucial life skills through the game, developing the next generation of leaders both on and off the court.

“We had a week of just girls’ clinics. It was the first week that we’ve ever done that. I would say that that was probably like my favorite week of the camp because we were able to support the girls in an area where they felt comfortable. At the end of the week, we asked them how they felt about it, and all of them said they felt empowered. ‘We feel safe. We feel welcomed.’ I think that was definitely my moment where I felt like I’m making a difference in these girls’ lives,” said DiCecco.

Jenni-Rose DiCecco in uniform for the Suffolk women’s basketball team. DiCecco played for the Rams from 2017 to 2022. (Courtesy of Jenni-Rose DiCecco.)

DiCecco said she believes her experiences help her in supporting athletes now as a coach as she calls on memories of her time as a student-athlete and all of the challenges and triumphs that come along with it.

“Being a female athlete I think helps a lot just to be able to relate to other female athletes. You have that sense of emotional balance and understanding what they’re going through,” said DiCecco.

DiCecco’s experience has translated for the team on the court as well, bringing a commanding functional knowledge of the sport to the Lions, especially working with the team’s guards, the position DiCecco played during her time at Suffolk.

“That’s not, ‘Oh, I read this in a coaching book.’ For her, it’s ‘no, I actually did this and it actually works.’ And [the players] trust that,” said Bill Gould, Emerson women’s basketball head coach. “That trust goes both ways. I think the kids trust her ability and knowledge, in general, but especially positionally. They know that she knows what she’s talking about, and that’s something that I think has been really helpful for our guards who are already benefiting from it.”

For DiCecco, her first NCAA game with the title “coach” brought her full circle – back to the Larry E. Smith and Michael S. Smith Court as Emerson faced off against Suffolk.

“It was surreal. It was very emotional for me. Going through the national anthem, I was like, ‘Wow, I feel like I’m about to play a game’. That was my first time being back at the court since not playing, so it was all a whirlwind,” said DiCecco.

From the moment DiCecco’s name was brought up in his search for an assistant last year, Gould immediately recognized DiCecco from the powerhouse Suffolk guard. Gould said he is thrilled to have her talents on his side of the court this season.

“I saw her as a competitor once a year and had some nightmares because of that, but now seeing her as a colleague, I’m really impressed with what she does,” said Gould.

In addition to her experiences as a player and driving desire to have an impact on her athletes, DiCecco’s life-long love for the game have inspired and motivated those around her, creating a team culture that translates to success on and off the court.

“Jenni-Rose plays an important role in elevating our team’s performance and fostering a positive and cohesive atmosphere. You can tell that she loves the game and wants us to succeed and she is willing to do what it takes to help us do that,” said Bushee.

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About the Contributor
Maren Halpin, News Editor | she/her
Maren is a sophomore print/web journalism major with a minor in political science from Milford, Massachusetts. When she’s not in The Journal office, you can usually find Maren in Suffolk’s orientation office or at an on-campus event. In her free time, she loves to go to her favorite coffee shops, listen to Noah Kahan, Hozier and Taylor Swift on repeat, explore the city and spend time with family and friends. Maren is passionate about politics and hopes to go into political journalism in the future. 

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