Unsung McDonald Quietly Drives Cardinal

Feb. 2, 2001

By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer

STANFORD, Calif. - Even after the most attention-grabbingperformance of his four-year career with top-ranked Stanford, Mike McDonald seemeddetermined to stay in the background.

'I'm capable of scoring if I have to, but on this team, we've got a lotof scorers,' McDonald said. 'That's not my role, but I do what I have to do. IfI have to hit a bunch of shots, I can hit a bunch of shots.'

Before Stanford's short, small and steady point guard hit six dramatic3-pointers against USC on Thursday night, this consummate team player'sability to decide a game with his sometimes shaky shot was in doubt. Not anymore.

When the Trojans pushed McDonald into the spotlight by blanketing CaseyJacobsen and daring McDonald to shoot, the senior responded with 18 pointsthat helped keep the Cardinal unbeaten. Stanford, which faces UCLA on Saturday,beat the No. 21 Trojans 77-71 to improve to 20-0.

'Oh, he's a dangerous shooter, but teams might not realize that yet,'Jacobsen said. 'On another team, he'd probably be averaging 15 points agame. But he does what we need him to do - make great passes, don't turn the ballover and score sometimes. He showed everybody what he's capable of if theydon't match up with him.'

All of McDonald's 18 points came on 3-pointers. What's more, all of hisshots - from his first, just 3 1/2 minutes into the game, to his last with50 seconds left - came at critical junctures, with the shot clock winding downand USC threatening to rally.

'He hit a lot of big shots,' said Trojans point guard BrandonGranville, who harassed Jacobsen into early ineffectiveness. '(McDonald) is a goodshooter. We knew that, but he hit the big shots still.'

As the Cardinal remain the nation's only unbeaten team and continue tobuild on the best start and winning streak in school history, McDonald is playingthe best basketball of his career. He has made 13-of-18 3-pointers over his lastfour games, and he's shooting 53.1 percent from 3-point range for theseason.

What's more, his assist-to-turnover ratio borders on the amazing for aplayer who handles the ball multiple times on nearly all of Stanford'spossessions. Even after just two assists and three turnovers againstSouthern California, McDonald's ratio is 103-to-28 (3.68) - easily the best mark inthe Pac-10.

'He doesn't fall into the traps that so many point guards do,' Stanfordcoach Mike Montgomery said. 'He rarely dribbles into trouble. He rarelymakes a pass he hasn't thought out in advance. I'm really pleased with Mike thisyear.'

In McDonald's first three years at Stanford, he didn't appear to be anheir to the Cardinal's tradition of multitalented point guards like Brevin Knightand Arthur Lee. He was conservative and reliable, yet rarely flashy andnever offensively prolific.

But McDonald's transformation this season has been remarkable. In hisfirst three seasons at Stanford, he shot under 33 percent from the field and wasstrictly a pass-first point guard, even last season when he started 31games.

But during the summer before his senior year, McDonald rededicatedhimself to shooting. This season, he's shooting 52 percent from the field.

'I worked on my shot a lot more than I ever had before,' McDonald said.'I just wanted to be able to do more things consistently.'

His work shows in a fluid shooting stroke. McDonald also has becomemuch less shy about shooting - and occasionally, he launches a long-distance shotfrom two or three steps behind the line, where Jacobsen excels.

'I like that shot, but I'm not just a 3-point guy,' McDonald said. 'Ifeel like I can score from anywhere, if that's what we need.'

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