Just two months ago, the only jersey that hung in the St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights, Pope Physical Education Center was the No. 22 of the great Dennis McDermott, fondly known as the “Face of St. Francis.”
However, that total now stands at three.
Following the ceremony to retire former Terriers’ standout Jeanne Zatorski’s No. 15 on Dec. 15, the No. 40 jersey of Karen Erving Schiera rose to the rafters on Feb. 9 as the women’s team battled Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, N.J., during “Karen Fest.”
Schiera, a 1991 St. Francis graduate, is the all-time leading scorer among men’s or women’s basketball players at the school with 1,929 career pts. She also holds the women’s basketball records for career rebounds (1,049), points in a single season (591, 1988-1989), career field goals made (798) and field goals made in a single season (241, 1988-1989).
Along with 2015 graduate Jalen Cannon, Schiera is just one of two St. Francis basketball student-athletes to compile over 1,500 career pts. and 1,000 career rebounds.
“I just had a knack for knowing the court,” she said. “I could see the play before it happened, and I rebounded really well no matter who I was against. I could get under the basket and get the ball.”
Originally from Bay Ridge, she attended Our Lady of Angels parish and grammar school while playing Catholic Youth Organization basketball, softball and volleyball. She went on to star in all three sports at St. Saviour H.S., Park Slope, which included playing on the varsity team in all 12 sports seasons.
During her senior year, Schiera, a forward/center in basketball, led the Pandas to the ‘C’ division state semifinal game. During those playoffs, St. Francis head coach Kevin Jones – at the behest of his assistant coach Margaret Flannery – scouted Schiera and instantly fell in love with her game.
Schiera received a full athletic scholarship for basketball and also continued her volleyball career in college. Though her hoops teams did not experience much on-court success, she was grateful to the school for giving her the opportunity to play Division I college basketball.
Under head coach Irma Garcia – St. Francis’ current athletic director – the seeds of a competitive program were being planted, and it certainly helped to have a foundational player like Schiera leading the charge.
“They’re finally recognizing what we did when we were there,” Schiera said. “We were all building toward something, and the school has been able to continue it now. The men’s and women’s teams compete every year.
“I like to think that all the heartache and losses that we went through back then multiplied forward so that these students now have a program that is a true Division I program.”
When she broke Zatorski’s scoring record, Schiera admits that she was happy, though a bit distraught. It turns out the Erving and Zatorski families of Bay Ridge knew each other, and Karen went to school with Jeanne’s younger brother.
Schiera even used to watch Zatorski play and looked up to her as a role model. It’s fitting that the first two retired numbers in Terriers’ women’s basketball history have that sort of connection.
Just six years after she graduating with a Bachelor of Science in accounting, Schiera was inducted into the St. Francis Brooklyn Athletics Hall of Fame. The honors continued with the jersey retirement ceremony, which is part of the college’s larger campaign celebrating 50 years of educating women in the school’s 160-year history.
Schiera currently lives in Mahopac, N.Y., with her husband, Robert, and four children: Robert, James, Nicholas and Kimberly. She serves as property manager, tenant relations coordinator and bookkeeper for Caspi Development of White Plains, N.Y.
Schiera described this whole process as “mind-blowing” and relished the chance to connect with her old teammates during the ceremony that cemented her place forever in Terriers’ athletic history.
“I had four of the best years of my life, made some of the best friends and had an excellent time playing basketball and volleyball,” she said. “It’s four years of my life that I would go back and relive tomorrow.”
Now, whenever student-athletes gaze up at the No. 40 jersey in the Pope Center, Schiera hopes they take away this simple message:
“Put in the hard work and appreciate that you’re playing a Division I sport and that you have that stage to showcase your talent,” she said. “Put the work in to make it as successful as you can.
“Make the school proud. People that go to St. Francis have a sense of pride and wanting to succeed, and that’s what makes St. Francis such a special place.”
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.