Don’t be surprised if fans watching Sarah McGee play this season are checking the Black Hills roster for a misprint.
Why is the 5-foot-11 forward, so effective as a post player, bringing the ball up the floor?
First-year coach Tanya Greenfield knows McGee’s first priority is to operate down low. That’s where she does her best work, averaging in double figures in points (11.5) and rebounds (11.1) through 17 games.
But this season, McGee also is needed elsewhere, in a role most low-post players would rather avoid: ballhandler.
And not for just any garden-variety moment. When the opponent’s defense is most intense, when teams are bringing their nastiest full-court trap, Greenfield wants the ball in McGee’s hands.
As the team’s best ballhandler in pressure situations, McGee’s versatility will be invaluable heading into Friday’s 2A Evergreen Conference home game against River Ridge. A win would give the Wolves a tie with the Hawks for second place with two regular-season games remaining.
Although McGee is a tall ballhandler, odds are the person guarding her doesn’t play post.
“Normally, the press isn’t used to somebody really tall,” McGee said. “It’s much easier for me to get around them.”
The girl nicknamed “Gorilla Arms” by assistant coach Herb Guscott also puts her lengthy wingspan to good use, leading the team in steals at 2.6 per game.
Greenfield, promoted to head coach this past offseason after two previous seasons as an assistant and junior varsity coach, watched McGee play over the summer and saw how she took it upon herself to improve on ball-handling. Her dramatic improvement gave Greenfield someone to turn to when searching for a player to help break a press. And it didn’t matter that McGee is a post.
“She has great court vision and sees the open person and the pass,” Greenfield said of McGee. “She has quick and long arms and gets those steals.”
McGee is a junior, but she just turned 16 in October; she started kindergarten at age 4.
She said she gets her rebounding instincts from her father, Chris, who coached her and other teammates when they were youngsters.
But guard-like instincts have come on lately. Most of her steals come near the top of the 3-point line or from intercepting entry passes on the wing.
Timing, she says, is everything.
“When you’re sitting there on defense and watching the person dribble, you know the rhythm,” McGee said.
During last Tuesday’s 81-53 home win over Aberdeen, McGee had a career-high 20 points, 11 rebounds and four steals. The Wolves (13-4 overall, 6-3 EvCo) have averaged 60.4 points a game, and its front-court of McGee, Hope Mortensen and Shayla Smothers are often just as fast as the guards on the floor. That style fits perfectly for McGee and the Wolves.
“I like a faster game,” she said.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/southsoundsports @megwochnick