By John Knebels
Sports Columnist

Some athletes aspire to be a star. Some couldn’t care less.

Consider Little Flower junior Jen Purcell more of the latter.

A third year starter as a guard and forward on a Sentinels team that has reached the Catholic League playoffs the past two seasons, Purcell has always been a no-frills type of performer. Coaches say that what Purcell may lack in a pure basketball prowess is offset by her penchant for good defense and end-to-end hustle. Her per-game averages in points, assists and rebounds aren’t astounding, but if there was a statistic for never taking a play off, she might be leading the league. {{more}}

“I just love the game,” Purcell said. “Ever since I started playing when I was about 6 years old, there was always something about it. I just kept trying to get better. In grade school, AAU (club), and now high school … I just want to keep playing until I can’t anymore.”

When she graduated from Northeast Philly’s St. Matthew’s School, Purcell was joined by classmates Courtney Widener and Erin Keyes at Little Flower. The trio was part of a very successful St. Matt’s squad that reached the city semifinals in their eighth-grade year.

While attending a different Catholic high school warranted consideration, Purcell decided on Little Flower for a variety of reasons. Not only was she impressed with the school’s open house, but her mother Monica (nee Grant) graduated from Little Flower in 1983. (Her father Steve graduated from Father Judge two years earlier.)

Since her first day as an enthusiastic, wide-eyed frosh at Little Flower, Purcell has experienced no regrets.

“I love the atmosphere,” she said. “The people are great. There is such great spanersity. People welcome you with open arms.”

Now, the girl who in eighth grade was so intrigued by the witness of the Little Flower students who “sold” the school at the annual open house finds herself doing the same thing to incoming students. As one of Little Flower’s school ambassadors, Purcell provides tours of the school and writes letters to parochial school students twice a year.

Also a midfielder on Little Flower’s field hockey team, Purcell’s personal resume backs up her words as she advises youngsters what to do when they reach high school.

“Get involved,” she said. “That really is without a doubt the most important thing to do. There are so many opportunities. Plus, you stay in good shape and don’t get into trouble.”

Purcell would get no argument from her older brother, Steve. A freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, Steve was a successful golfer and wrote for the school newspaper before graduating from Roman Catholic last June. Steve also played on St. Matthew’s high school CYO team.

While she would love to play college basketball, Purcell realizes that might not be an option. Either way, she plans to major in either occupational or physical therapy and has no desire to travel far from Philadelphia.

“There are so many great schools around here,” she said. “Why move away when you don’t have to?”

John Knebels can be reached at