Penn women's basketball prides itself on dedication and perseverance. Senior Meg Hair is all-in on these values.
The Syracuse, N.Y. native came to Penn after a storied high school career at high basketball powerhouse Jamesville-Dewitt. In high school, she was a three-time state champion and was named the 2016, 2017, and 2018 New York State Player of the Year. She finished her high school career with 1,793 career points as her school's all-time leading scorer.
Growing up, she always had a connection with basketball, as her neighbors were the famous Boeheim family. Right next door was the famous Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim and his family. Her best friend was Jamie Boeheim, who currently is a member of the University of Rochester basketball team.
“They are my neighbors and my best friends,” Hair said. “Buddy and Jamie, they are twins, and I also have a twin, so growing up, I've known him since I was in kindergarten. That is how I started playing basketball whenever I was over there; I would play basketball with Buddy and then growing up, Jamie is one of my best friends. Going to the SU practices and the games all the time, it's just an amazing, you know, vibe over there.”
While she had an initial connection at Syracuse, she was drawn to Penn for the ability to get a world-class education while playing for a storied program like Penn. She also had a connection to Penn through an alumnus who confirmed that Penn was the right choice for her.
“Anna Ross: she graduated in 2018. She actually grew up right down the street from me and went to my high school, so I knew that she was coming here, and she had great things to say about Penn,” Hair said.
During her freshman and sophomore seasons, she combined for a total of 19 appearances. Her junior year was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While she did not have the ability to contribute instantly coming in, she has now set herself up to be a key player for the Quakers.
“She came in, kids were a little bit older a little bit further along in their skill set, strengths,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “She had the chance to watch for two years, and then last year would have been the year to take that next step but not playing. She has taken advantage of that opportunity now. She is in the best condition that she has ever been in, she’s matured, she’s got leadership qualities. She has a lot of things going for her. I am really proud of her — she preserved and not playing as much as I’m sure she wanted to, and now she has a pretty good opportunity to play.”
Her dedication has not gone unnoticed by her teammates who named her captain for her senior season. Often the captainship will go to the leading scorer, but her perseverance earned her the title of "Captain Meg." She was able to lead the team in a difficult time where the team was unable to play and has shown what it truly means to be a Penn basketball player.
While the basketball season is just starting, Hair and her teammates have been happy to be back playing the sport that they love and are bringing a high level of intensity to every practice.
“It’s been amazing just coming back and playing with my teammates,“ Hair said. “We have two new classes coming in, so it's nice to see them in person and not only through a screen. It’s really amazing; the competition in our practices is very high, everyone is eager to get back on the court, especially me, just to come here and have fun and fall back in love with the game that we fell in love with to begin with.”
McLaughlin is proud of her development as both a person and a basketball player over the last four years, and knows that she will achieve great things at Penn because of the work that she has put in.
“I love to see four-year players do really well, McLaughlin said. “I hope it is on the floor and I have confidence it will be, but I know I want Meg to leave here feeling somewhat satisfied about what she achieved here. I am confident she will do it, because she deserves it. She is dedicated, she is caring, she wants Penn to do well.”
Before she graduates this May, Hair and women's basketball have one goal in mind: getting back to an Ivy League Championship. The last time the team won was in 2019. There is also a chance that she might be back for a fifth year and two more chances at a ring.
“Our number one goal is an Ivy League championship. We had that my freshman year, and we came up short my sophomore year with [COVID-19]," Hair said. “We are aiming high and want to make it to the tournament, but a championship is definitely the number one goal for all of us right now. In the future, I'm not sure so yet about the fifth year. I haven't decided but it's still up in the air.”
Outside of Penn basketball, she wouldn’t change her experience over the last four years. It has allowed her to meet many new people from all over the world and other student-athletes at Penn.