Michelle Smith Women’s Basketball Feature: Utah's Brynna Maxwell
Brynna Maxwell has baby photos of herself at the tender age of 1, sleeping with a basketball in her arms. At the age of two she was showing her dad her spin move in the driveway. By the third grade, she had dropped all the rest of the sports she tried - soccer and softball and golf - to focus on the one she loved best, basketball.
And through all those years, she said she has been confident in her game. Because, as her father said, “If you are working as hard as you can, why shouldn’t you be confident?”
All these years later, the lesson still applies as Maxwell celebrates the honor of being named Pac-12 Player of the Week, the 6-foot sophomore guard from Gig Harbor pushing Utah to one of its biggest conference wins ever, an 85-79 road upset at Oregon State.
She had a career-high 34 points in that game, 28 of those in the second half.
“Honestly, it’s been kind of a fast week," Maxwell said. On Monday afternoon, the Utes returned to the floor to face Colorado, falling 80-50. And this weekend Utah will host Arizona State and No. 6 Arizona in Salt Lake City.
Through four games, Utah is 2-2, starting the season immediately with Pac-12 games after the program was forced to shut down for two weeks due to COVID-19 protocols.
“We are still figuring out who we are,” Maxwell said. “In the Oregon State game, we weren’t focusing on them, just on what we could do best and we executed our plan, we did what we had to do.”
Maxwell was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention and a member of the first-team All-Freshman team, starting 31 games last season. Her role is amplified this season as a veteran, averaging 14.8 points a game and shooting 18 of 18 from the free-throw line thus far.
“I’ve already had contacts from WNBA GMs about her,” said Utah coach Lynne Roberts. “I think people recognize a potential pro. She is made for this. She is easily one of the most competitive kids I’ve coached and the best thing is she just loves to play. She’s like a little kid out there.”
Maxwell thinks “the sky is the limit” for this Utes team, which includes four returning starters, including her backcourt mate, Dru Glyten, the Pac-12’s current assists leader (5.5 apg).
“It’s a matter executing and playing together,” Maxwell said. “In the Pac-12, it’s about who can execute and who is the toughest. The tougher team can win a lot of games, and I think we have that gritty mindset.”
Maxwell said the quarantine was an opportunity as well as a disappointment for the Utes.
“It was fun for like the first two days and then it got long. We got our workouts done in our rooms. I think that time helped us,” Maxwell said.
Roberts sees more games like the one in Corvallis in Maxwell’s future.
“Let’s say that was not shocking to me,” Roberts said. “That’s how she shoots in practice. Now it’s a matter of me putting her in position to get touches.”
During the summer, Maxwell said she spent a lot of hours at her backyard hoop working on becoming a “four-level scorer” while her dad knocked her around with a pad, coaching her to finish through contact. And there is a basketball hoop hanging in the garage for free-throw shooting on those rainy days in Washington State.
“My dad has always told me to practice like you play and if you are working your hardest, good things will happen,” Maxwell said.