The path that Moran and LeDuc took to getting on the floor together mirrored their paths to Cornell.
Moran was recruited very early in her high school career by teams like Harvard, Penn and Cornell. Coach Smith had her sights set on Moran early and pushed hard to get the Far Hills, N.J., native to commit to play for the Big Red. Smith jokes that she “followed Kerri around the country,” to attend her high school games and offered her a preferred admission slot in the spring of her junior year of high school. But with other offers on the table, Moran was taking her time to commit to a college.
LeDuc, on the other hand, had very few schools looking at her initially and had actually filled out an online recruiting questionnaire through the Cornell athletics website. It was LeDuc that called assistant coach Val Klopfer time and time again to set up a visit. Just like the player she is on the court, the Vienna, Va. native was tenacious in her approach to get noticed by the Big Red staff.
Luckily for LeDuc, Coach Smith had actually seen her play – in a game she was attending during her recruitment of Moran.
“When I saw them compete against each other, I really liked Megan, but I had more familiarity with Kerri because we had been recruiting her a long time,” says Smith. “Megan kept calling Val because she wanted to come for a visit. We’d already offered Kerri and we certainly weren’t going to pull that offer, but we talked long and hard about what to do, and Val said, ‘She’s a good point guard and we don’t know what’s going to happen with Kerri, so we need to meet with Megan.’”
The decision for Smith didn’t get any easier after a fantastic campus visit with LeDuc. With two forwards already committed to the class, the Big Red staff really wanted one point guard and one shooting guard to round out the recruits. Now they needed to decide if it would be better to take two true point guards, or stick with Moran, hoping she would commit, and then offer an admission slot to a shooting guard that they didn’t like as much as LeDuc.
“[Former Cornell men’s basketball coach] Steve Donahue always used to say, ‘Are they going to help you win basketball games? If they’re in the same position it doesn’t matter, if they’ll help you win,’” says Smith. “So we looked at Megan like that. We decided that if Kerri did commit and ran the point for four years, we thought Megan had such a different game that it would still make us a better team.”
Now at the end of their careers, there is little doubt that the gamble has paid off for Smith. The duo has emerged as arguably the best backcourt in the history of Cornell women’s basketball and has helped the Class of 2017 to become the winningest in program history. And it’s the pair’s differences that have helped make them so successful.
Moran is a lefty who is outstanding in the team’s half-court offense. She sees the floor well and knows how to attack an opponent’s defense. She is also deceptively athletic and has a quick first step that allows her to get to the rim or knock down jumpers off a screen.
LeDuc is a righty that plays with such speed that she’s hard to guard. She’s most dangerous in transition and is able to find open teammates before the opponent’s defense can get set. She has also developed a lethal 3-point shot and heads into the final weekend of the regular season ranking first in the Ivy League and 18th in the nation with a .427 shooting percentage beyond the arc.
They also have extremely different personalities that are evident in how they approach their teammates on and off the court.
“Kerri was more vocal early in her career, and Megan has had to learn to do it,” says Smith. “Kerri is the drill sergeant, and Megan picks up the pieces. Kerri will step up and call someone out in front of the whole team, and Megan likes to talk to people one-on-one when something needs to be addressed. Kerri isn’t afraid to challenge or hold people accountable, and Megan leads by example.”
Despite the differences in their personalities, it is their similarly intense desire to win that has allowed them to put their egos aside and make room for each other on the court.
“We’ll do whatever it takes to win,” says LeDuc. “We’re both intense and extremely competitive, but in the end, I don’t think Kerri or I care about our individual stats. We might be different in how we play and in our personalities, but Kerri and I are on the same page on a lot of things. Mostly, we just want the team to be successful.”
And while neither LeDuc nor Moran care about their individual stats, their numbers are impressive, as they are the only pair of four-year teammates at Cornell to record at least 800 points and 300 assists. They enter the final regular season weekend of their career ranking in the top 10 in Cornell history for assists, with Moran sitting in fourth place all-time (410) and LeDuc in eighth (332). They’re even closer on the all-time scoring list, as LeDuc is 20th overall with 838 points and Moran is right behind her at 831.
Just like their proximity in the record book, LeDuc and Moran are also close off the court.
“If someone from outside our program walked into the gym, they wouldn’t know they were friends but they have such an underlying respect for one another,” says Smith. “And we see that because they’ve been through a lot together. You can see that when the going gets tough, they really lean on each other and look to one another. It’s a unique relationship. It took time to develop, but we’re a better program for it.”