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Fighting Irish Basketball Player Anna DeWolfe Discusses Career & Growing Up in a Union Family in Maine

Andy O’Brien
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PHOTO: Cumberland native Anna DeWolfe playing for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Cumberland native Anna DeWolfe is a rising star in the world of women’s college basketball. DeWolfe had a stellar season this year as a starting guard who helped lead Notre Dame to win the Atlantic Coast Conference and get to the Sweet 16 in the Women’s NCAA Division 1 March Madness. She has earned a three-time All-Atlantic 10 selection and was named as part of the 2024 All-ACC Academic Team for her outstanding academic and athletic performance.

Anna is also the daughter of Sister Serina DeWolfe, a lead organizer for AFT in Maine and member of the Maine AFL-CIO Executive Board. Since she was a little girl, Anna has dreamed of playing Division 1 College basketball and getting into March Madness. Her mother said her daughter’s athletic talent was apparent from a very young age.

“When she was little, even when she was three or four years old, our friends were like ‘wow, she’s a really good athlete!” And I was like, ‘get the hell out of here! How can tell that when she’s so young,” said Serina DeWolfe. “Fast forward 18 years and she’s done pretty well. She just has a God given talent that’s amazing.”

As a child, Anna could often be found in the driveway playing various sports with her brother; she started playing basketball in second grade. In fourth grade she started playing in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball league and Premier League Soccer. She always played a few levels up from her own age group. While most students get into sports because it’s fun and they enjoy being part of a team with their friends, Anna just had a natural competitive drive to win.

"I didn’t look at it as something fun to do,” she says. “For me it was do or die because I love to win and I hated losing. I just loved the competitive nature of sports.”

But it took a lot of hard work and sacrifice to get to where she is today,

“I didn’t go to any school dances. I didn’t hang out. I didn’t do a lot of normal kid stuff when I was that age,” she says. “I was always in a gym working out. I was playing basketball and soccer.”

She is especially thankful to her parents for the sacrifices they made to help her pursue her lifelong dream, whether it was taking her to two or three practices a night or traveling around the country with her father playing games and meeting college coaches and recruiters while her mom stayed home with her brother. With a such a rock ribbed unionist for a mother, Anna grew up with a strong awareness of the importance of the labor movement. While in middle school in the winter of 2013-2014, she stood with her mom on the picket line during the 131-day strike at Fairpoint Communications.

“I just remember thinking that was normal to do as a kid,” said Anna DeWolfe. “One thing I’ve always really admired about my mom is that she’s strong willed. She’s always going to say what’s she’s thinking and stand for what she believes and that’s how she raised me. If I don’t agree with you I’m going to say my side and stand by it.”

Eventually playing two sports became too much of a time commitment so DeWolfe chose to focus on basketball. She was in 8th grade when she received her first Division 1 offer from Villanova. She later played for Greely High School and won Miss Maine Basketball in 2019. By the time she was seriously looking at colleges, she had about 30 scholarship offers from various schools. She chose to play for Fordham University in New York. There, DeWolfe was a four-time member of the Atlantic 10 Commissioner’s Honor Roll.

Supporting Her Adjunct Professors

When Fordham adjunct professors were on the verge of a strike in 2023, Anna’s mom sent her an article about it to make sure her daughter did her part to support them. Of course, Anna strongly supported her professors, displayed a pro-union sticker and educated her classmates about their struggles.

“I understood what was going on, but other student athletes didn’t understand what was happening. It was cool to actually see it first hand and be a part of something like that,” said DeWolfe. “The professors were always surprised that I actually understood them and I always think it’s cool that my mom is part of a union.”

She’s aware that some college athletes, like the Dartmouth men’s basketball team, are organizing unions, though but she’s already finished her college career.

“If I was four years younger I might look into that a little bit more, but I’m done so I’m not sure if it would benefit me now,” she said. “I’m really close to a lot of my teammates at Notre Dame so maybe next year they’ll reach out to me to get some advice. We’ll see.”

On to March Madness

After four years at Fordham, Anna was able to play for a fifth year due a change in rules as a result of the covid pandemic. One of the reasons she decided to transfer to Notre Dame was it would be easier to make the March Madness tournament than at a mid-major school like Fordham. There she pursued a graduate degree in marketing and ended up starting every game this season.

“She was somebody (who), my first phone call, I was like ‘We have to get her,'” Niele Ivey, Notre Dame’s fourth-year coach, told the Press Herald in December. “She’s a Notre Dame kid. She’s just phenomenal. … She’s very unselfish and someone that just has an incredible heart.”

DeWolfe went on to help her team to victory in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship over North Carolina State, winning its first conference tournament title in five years.

DeWolfe has always been aware that there are “a lot of little eyes watching her,” so she tries to be a positive role model. When she was back in Maine, she would often work with younger girls at camps, take them back to her locker room and autograph shirts.

“I owe it to the kids from the younger generation back in Maine to know that if you work hard you can get to where I am,” she said. “I was once one of them and I knew what it was like to have a great role model.”

When she was a kid, she idolized McAuley High School basketball star Allie Clement, who took her under her wing. These days, Clement is her financial advisor. The WNBA draft just happened recently, but there are so few teams that there are aren't many roster spots, which is why many talented athletes play in Europe.

DeWolfe is about to graduate with her new degree in communications management and just signed with an overseas agent to hopefully play in a European league. Her mom couldn’t be prouder.

“She’s such a super nice, compassionate kid. I couldn’t ask for a better child,” said DeWolfe, adding,  “Sometimes she’s way nicer than I am.”