Michelle Smith Feature: Stanford's McPhee discusses being the impact player
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer borrowed the analogy for what senior guard Brittany McPhee has to do this season from associate head coach Kate Paye.
“Kate says it’s like being right-handed and having to write with your left hand,” VanDerveer said. “Britt’s game has been one thing, and now she’s got to do something else, and it’s hard.”
For the first three years of her collegiate career, McPhee was an impact player on a roster that was full of them. Now she is THE impact player on a young Cardinal team that is gritting and gutting their way through the Pac-12 after a bruising non-conference.
A non-conference in which McPhee mostly sat on the bench and watched.
The Normandy Park, Washington native missed nine games early with a foot injury, returning for the non-conference finale against Tennessee before Christmas. And she returned with a vengeance, scoring 27 points, one off her career high.
In the nine games she’s played since her return, McPhee is averaging 15.3 points. She is 14 points away from scoring 1,000 in her career.
“It’s definitely different than last year,” McPhee said. “Our culture and our chemistry is really good right now. I think we are all just invested in getting better. I’m just doing whatever I can to help.”
That includes scoring and more as she becomes the focal point of opposing defenses.
McPhee’s do-everything talents were on display last weekend against USC when she had a layup and a steal in the final 25 seconds to secure a 58-55 win.
“She’s not surrounded by the people she was last year,” VanDerveer said. “She missed so much early and didn’t get to practice with people. She has to get in the flow. Now teams are game-planning for her and she has to adjust. It’s kind of all about Brit.”
McPhee is playing a team-leading 30.5 minutes a game.
“I’m trying to help our young players learn and be a resource for them,” McPhee said. “And if defenses are paying attention to me, then my teammates are getting open and they are looking to score. There will be a lot of shots for other people.”
VanDerveer said she doesn’t want McPhee to put pressure on herself as the young Cardinal find their way, sitting in second place in the league standings heading into Friday night’s matchup against Arizona State. But the Cardinal also sit outside of the national rankings for the first time in 17 years.
“I want her to have fun and make the easy play, and not feel like she has to win it all by herself,” VanDerveer said. “She loves to play and it pains her when she’s struggling and her team is struggling, but she’s working hard to be a good leader and the key thing is keeping her healthy.”
McPhee, entering the home stretch of her final season, said she is trying to appreciate every game, every practice, every shoot-around.
“After being hurt, I was just so excited to play,” McPhee said. “I don’t want to overlook any game at this point.”
Michelle Smith is a contributing writer for pac-12.com. She has covered pro and college sports for espnW, the San Francisco Chronicle and AOL Fanhouse. For previous Michelle Smith features on pac-12.com, visit the archives page.