Chloe Marotta hears the comparisons between her and her father all the time.
“It’s the mid-range jump shots and the rebounding, but even off the court. I have the same type of personality and same smile. Especially the Pittsburgh people, they always say I remind me of him,” Chloe said.
Her father, the late Marc Marotta, is considered one of the greatest basketball players in WPIAL history. A rugged 6-foot-7 forward, Marotta starred at Central Catholic, where he averaged 26 points and 18 rebounds a game as a senior in 1980. He would go on to play at Marquette University, and led the Golden Eagles in rebounds three consecutive seasons.
“He was certainly an outstanding player but also well known in the community,” said Marotta’s widow, Kim. “When he played at Marquette he became very visible. Doc Rivers was there at the time. The two of them were great friends and got a lot of notoriety.”
Four decades later, another Marotta, wearing the same No. 52 jersey, is putting the finishing touches on an outstanding career at Marquette. Just like Dad, rebounds are a big part of it, but that’s not the only thing Chloe is doing to honor her father. She has also been busy raising money and awareness for The Brain Aneurysm Foundation. It was a brain aneurysm that took her dad’s life eight years ago, ironically, at the age of 52.
Chloe Marotta is a 6-1 senior forward who was named first-team All-Big East this season for a Marquette team that hopes to hear its name called when the NCAA tournament field is announced Sunday night. The Golden Eagles (21-10) are regarded as being “on the bubble.” Marotta averages 14.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, the second season in a row she has led the team in boards. Her 905 career rebounds rank eighth all time in Marquette history.
Last month, Marotta, through the NCAA’s name, image and likeness (NIL) rules, launched an initiative called “Rebounds for Research,” one she hopes will save lives. Those who contribute can make a one-time donation or pledge to donate a certain amount of money for every rebound Marotta pulls down. Her 281 rebounds rank fourth in the Big East.
Why rebounds? Simply put, Marottas and rebounds go hand in hand.
“My dad really instilled rebounding in me from a young age and really made it known how important it was to rebound,” said Chloe, a four-year starter who grew up in the town of Mequon, Wis. “Rebounding was more important than points or any other number because how important it is to get a tough rebound and help the team win a game.”
Marotta’s original goal was to raise $1,000, a mark she reached just a few hours after the campaign was launched. It then went to 5K and 10K, and the total now stands at just over $20,000. Donations can be made through April 4. The Milwaukee Bucks will host Chloe for their game March 30 against the Boston Celtics. She will address the crowd explaining her campaign. Deborah Ledford, mother of Bucks center Brook Lopez, is among those who have donated.
“One of the biggest things to come out of it is that I didn’t realize how many people have been affected by brain aneurysms,” Chloe said. “The first donation was from a girl from Georgetown who I’ve played against the last few years. We were playing against each other the next day. For her to do that, that was so sweet. I got a donation from the Seton Hall coach. Just so many people.”
Her father’s brain aneurysm wasn’t the only one that has affected Chloe’s family. Her maternal grandfather, Robert “Buzz” Heller, suffered one in 2020 but was able to recover.
Chloe was in ninth grade and just 14 years old when her father passed away suddenly on April 8, 2015.
“It was a Saturday morning and he said his head was just pounding and his neck was killing him,” Kim Marotta remembers. “He was popping Tylenol like crazy. He went to the walk-in clinic at Walgreen’s to see if it might be an ear infection. He didn’t have a doctor’s appointment until that Wednesday. He thought maybe it was a migraine.”
Four days later, following a workout at Milwaukee’s Athletic Club, Marc Marotta was found dead in his car due to a brain aneurysm. He was survived by his wife and four children: Karley, Cameron, Chloe and McKenna.
Marc Marotta was a tremendous player at Central Catholic who was highly recruited nationally. He’s one of only a handful of players in Central Catholic history to score more than 1,000 career points (he tallied 1,634). Marc’s father, Phil, at the age of 92, still lives in the same Highland Park home where Marc grew up. When Kim was there just a month ago to visit, she discovered four huge boxes that were packed with letters “from nearly every coach from around the country.”
“The first one I opened up was from Edward Kennedy and was typed on U.S. Senate paper. He was trying to get Marc to go to Harvard,” Kim said.
When coaches went to the Marottas for a home visit, Kim said they always left with a full stomach.
“I always heard that he had coaches in and out of that kitchen,” Kim remembers. “Coach (Mike) Krzyzewski when he was at Navy, Rollie Massimino, Jerry Tarkanian. All of them knew that my mother-in-law made great Italian food. One coach was coming in the front door and the other out the back door.”
Marc Marotta eventually left Pittsburgh, but Kim said her family is still well connected with Marc’s family and friends back in Western Pa. Jamie Regan, the best man at the Marotta’s wedding, made the trip to Connecticut with his wife, Cassy, to watch Chloe play in the Big East tournament earlier this month.
Marc and Kim met at Marquette. Kim, who is four years younger than Marc, was a cheerleader for the Golden Eagles when Marc was attending law school at Harvard. Marc, a three-time Academic All-American at Marquette, was selected by the New York Knicks in the 1984 NBA Draft — the same one that produced Michael Jordan — but decided against playing in the league, and instead began pursuing a career in law. He became a successful attorney and served as chairman of the board of the Bucks arena, the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Chloe Marotta’s connection to Marquette extends past just her parents attending school there. Her maternal grandfather and great-grandfather, Robert Heller Sr., also played basketball for the Golden Eagles. Chloe’s brother, Cameron, was a walk-on and four-year letterwinner for the Golden Eagles who is currently the director of Club 52, an AAU program he created. Of course, Cameron also wore No. 52 at Marquette, just like Dad before him and sister after him. What was neat was that Marc’s father traveled to Wisconsin to take part in the home visit dinners when Chloe was being recruited, just like he was part of the home visits when his son was being wooed by colleges decades earlier.
“He would be in on all of those visits. He would be tired, but listening. He’s just like my dad, just an older version. He has no filters,” Chloe said, laughing.
Chloe remembers vividly the final basketball game she watched with her father. It was Connecticut’s win against Notre Dame in the 2015 NCAA women’s national championship. The two talked about the game the following morning. Marc passed away later that day.
Like many female basketball players growing up in the past few decades, Chloe dreamed of one day playing for UConn. Marquette eventually won her over, but UConn was the opponent in what Chloe called one of the most special moments of her season and career. On Feb. 8, Marotta tallied a game-high 19 points and added nine rebounds to help Marquette stun No. 4 UConn, 59-52, at Marquette’s Al McGuire Center. Marquette had never beaten the Huskies until that day, and the win was the second for the Golden Eagles against a top-5 opponent in school history — both have come this season. It marked the second consecutive loss for the Huskies, which had not happened in 30 years.
“At the funeral, all the kids spoke,” Kim recalls. “When Chloe spoke, she spoke about making her dad proud. Her lifelong dream was to play for UConn. And then a couple of weeks ago, she was the player of the game after beating UConn playing at her dad’s alma mater. We cried and cried and cried. It was such an exciting day.”
Added Chloe, “Marquette is the school I love most, but UConn inspired me. I mentioned to [her father] one day that at some point I would get there. What a better way than to beat UConn. I know he’s proud of me in that sense. It was very fulfilling.”
Now Chloe hopes to lead her dad’s alma mater to a long NCAA tournament run. Regardless, her career won’t end when this season concludes. After completing her MBA later this year, Chloe plans on playing overseas. She’s also considering one day following in her parents’ footsteps and attending law school.
Dad would undoubtedly be immensely proud of what his second-youngest daughter has accomplished on the court, and the resemblance between Dad and daughter still blows away mom.
“It’s amazing. Literally a dream come true,” Kim said. “The kids never saw Marc play in person, but they’ve certainly seen a lot of games on YouTube. She plays so similar to how he played. She’s really strong. She’s not the tallest out on the court, but she’s intelligent and she thinks about how to go up for that rebound because she has to work harder for it. She has that fire in her, and it’s been that way since she was a little kid.”
And while those 905 career rebounds are special, what might even be more extraordinary is the impact Chloe Marotta is making off the court.
“I saw from a young age my dad do things for the community,” Chloe said. “It was never how great of a basketball player he was, but always how good of a person he was. If I’m able to be remembered in that way, I think it would be very special. My mom has been a great example, as well. From a young age, I’ve wanted to be like them.”
Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at email@example.com.