By Joseph Staszewski
Clare Droesch still remembers being a grammar school kid in Rockaway, dreaming of being a star at Christ the King.
The Royals players would compete near her home, at the St. Francis De Sales summer classic, and she attended the school’s girls’ basketball camp each summer. Christ the King was in the midst of a run of 10 straight state Federation Class A crowns and Droesch wanted to be a part of it.
“You would always hear about how they are winning,” she said. “It was the team everyone always spoke about. So it was definitely the school I wanted to play at.”
She got her chance earlier than most, as she was the one of the rare freshman promoted to the varsity team. A year later legendary Royals coach Vinny Cannizzaro handed her the keys to the kingdom.
“You don’t expect it, but it comes fast,” she said. “One second, you are a freshman looking up to all these players and you are following. Then the torch is handed to you.”
Droesch took that torch and ran with it.
After winning a mythical national title as a freshman, she led the Royals to two more state crowns and three CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens titles. Droesch was named a WBCA All-American after her senior season before going on to play at Boston College.
There, she appeared in four NCAA tournaments and was member of the prestigious 1,000-point and 500-rebound club. Droesch, who is 12th on the program’s all-time scoring list was named to the Big East all-rookie team and as a senior was an all-conference selection. She played professionally for two seasons in Portugal.
Droesch recently added another honor, as she was inducted in the GCHSAA Hall of Fame. She joins Christ the King’s all-time great players like Sue Bird, and Chamique Holdsclaw.
“It was a huge and great honor to make it into that Hall of Fame, especially with all the great people that I joined,” Droesch said.
She kept basketball in her life after that, with coaching stints at UMass Boston, Vanderbilt and St. John’s before potentially having both the game and life taken from her. Droesch, who also coached at Scholars Academy in the PSAL, was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer, while an assistant varsity coach at St. Edmund.
She began a long battle that continues to day. In March, a tumor that had wrapped around her spine was removed. The next day she was walking the hallways.
“I try not to let it affect my real life, but its is impossible,” she said.
Droesch continued to come to games and practices from the beginning—despite often being exhausted from treatments—because of how much she loved coaching.
“I knew I was going to go back to high school,” Droesch said. “I just didn’t like the college level. I really like to teach the game. I love the high-school level.”
She is thankful for the fact that she gets to share her knowledge of the game back at Christ the King as an assistant varsity coach, a position she has held since 2013. Being there also helps her cope with the up and downs of cancer treatment every Monday. She is comfortable talking about it with her fellow coaches.
“It’s nice with everything going on and being in a place that was home for me for a long time with people I trust,” Droesch said.
Seventeen years ago the Royals program put their trust in her. Only good has come from the partnership since.