When her college career finally comes to an end more than a year from now, Kelsey Plum hopes she is not defined simply as a scorer.
Even if by the time she wraps up at Washington, she’s likely to have rewritten the Pac-12 record book as the most prolific scorer the conference has seen.
“I think you’re put in different opportunities to grow your game and I think I’ve been fortunate to be put in a system that highlights my strengths and one of my strengths is scoring,” Plum said. “It just kind of happens to lay out that way. It’s been a perfect match of players and coaches and everyone coming together, and my role on the team happens to be to score.”
For now, Plum accepts the label because, well, she’s one of the best in the nation and that’s helping Washington return to prominence. The junior from San Diego is currently the No. 2 scorer in the country, averaging 27.1 points per game while helping to get the Huskies back into the AP Top 25 for the first time in more than a decade.
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The Huskies are ranked No. 24 and could remain in the poll despite a 61-53 loss at home to No. 9 Oregon State on Friday night.
Plum scored 30 points against the Beavers, but none of the other Huskies contributed more than six points.
“She’s not a ball hog. The term we all use is ‘ball hog,’ and she’s not a ball hog,” Washington coach Mike Neighbors said. “She averages (four) assists per game and another three or four passes that could be assists if the ball went in. She moves the ball where it needs to go. It’s not like you’re watching somebody dominate the ball. She can dominate scoring without dominating the ball.”
Last weekend Plum became the fastest in conference history to reach 2,000 points in a career. If she can continue at her current pace, Plum could go into her senior season needing less than 400 points to move past Chiney Ogwumike to become the Pac-12’s all-time scoring leader.
And yes, Plum has emphatically said she’s coming back for her senior season.
“Coach Neighbors emphasizes, ‘Get a good shot, get the best shot, and take a shot you’ve made in practice.’ So if you take that shot, you better have made it and practiced it before you take it in the game,” Plum said. “The shots that I shoot in the game, I’ve shot them in practice, so I have reps.”
This season has been a transition for Plum from shooting guard to point guard, and moving on from a painful knee injury she played through last year while still averaging 22.6 points per game. Jazmine Davis ran the show for the first two seasons, allowing Plum to play off the ball. This year, Plum’s been the one in control.
“She’s always thinking like a chess player, a couple of moves ahead,” Neighbors said.
Plum’s scoring has received plenty of attention, but it was her work on the whiteboard that may have gained her the most notoriety this season. A few weeks ago against Washington State, the Huskies were struggling to communicate between the floor and the bench about how to break down the Cougars defense.
So when there was finally a break in the action, Neighbors handed Plum the whiteboard and said, “show me.”
“Some people thought it was funny,” Plum said. “I think a lot of people thought it was really cool that you have a relationship with your coach like that.”
Neighbors got plenty of messages on his end as well, but he believed it was more an example of the program he’s tried to create at Washington.
“Lot of feedback. Lot of cool stuff. But I think it’s a small snapshot of the culture that we have,” Neighbors said. “We want to get it right. We don’t care who is right, and it doesn’t always have to be the coach drawing it up.
“Sometimes it’s better if it comes from the people that are out there doing it.”