ND Women’s Basketball: McBride shines in new role
Vicky Jacobsen | Friday, March 22, 2013
She was named the Big East tournament’s Most Valuable Player as the Irish claimed their first conference title. She scored more than 20 points in each of Notre Dame’s three wins over No. 3 Connecticut this season. She has emerged as a go-to player in the clutch.
And her name is not Skylar Diggins.
For many, junior guard Kayla McBride’s standout moment of the season came March 4 in Notre Dame’s last home game of the season, as Connecticut led by three in overtime. With eight seconds left on the clock, McBride sank a 3-pointer – the only one the Irish made that night – to keep the game alive.
But McBride is not too inclined to brag about that play, which allowed the Irish to win 96-87 in triple overtime.
“They were sagging off me and I looked over and they were obviously double-teaming Sky, so I was like, ‘Well, we’re down three,'” McBride said. “So it was just an instinctual play. I don’t think it was anything special, I was just taking advantage of my opportunity.”
But Irish coach Muffet McGraw, for one, didn’t downplay the importance of such as shot.
“It was huge for her to step up and show everybody that we have more than just Skylar,” McGraw said.
McBride’s hot streak continued into the Big East tournament. She helped the Irish pull away from South Florida in the first round and then led the team in scoring against Louisville in the semifinals and Connecticut in the finals.
“[The conference title] means a lot because it was Coach McGraw’s first one and [it’s] just before we’re about to leave for the ACC,” McBride said. “It was just a great team win. And to beat a great team in UConn who’s beaten us so many times in the championship game, that was just really special.”
But McBride is not nearly as eager to discuss her own MVP performance.
“She’s pretty chill; we hang a lot off the court, and she’s really down-to-earth,” senior guard Kaila Turner said. “You would never know she was the MVP of the Big East tournament.”
McGraw said that attitude is part of what makes McBride such a successful player.
“She has a big game, comes back the next day and works harder,” McGraw said. “She gets shots up on off-days. She never takes a day off. She scored her 1,000th point? ‘No big deal. Let’s see how much better I can get tomorrow.'”
McBride, in turn, attributes a lot of her drive to McGraw’s mantra: Never settle.
“She wants the best out of you,” McBride said. “You could score 20 points a game and she’s going to find things to make you better, so that’s what I respect about her.”
Even when it comes to watching professional sports, McBride prefers the low-drama approach. Aside from Michael Jordan (and his mid-range game), McBride says she most tries to emulate Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade.
“I like how he’s always so calm and steady and doesn’t really matter what’s going on around him, he’s always going to play the same game,” McBride said.
McBride’s emergence as Notre Dame’s second-leading scorer isn’t unexpected; she was the only underclassmen in the Irish starting lineup last season. But her career could have become a “what-if” after she sat out the second half of her freshman season for off-the-court reasons. Two years later, McBride says her teammates and coaches really helped her mature during that time.
“They couldn’t really do anything for me. It was a lesson I had to learn on my own, but I know they were always there for support,” McBride said.
McBride also credits Ryan Hall rector Breyan Tornifolio with helping her through the situation.
“She was always there,” McBride said. “I would just go to her room, vent and clear my head. And she was always so positive and helped me through it, so I think that was great for me.”
McBride says that maturity – and renewed confidence – has helped her step into a new position on the team.
“I came in a pretty confident player, but [my missteps] kind of killed my confidence, so I just had to build myself up,” McBride said. “As a younger player you’re going to be a role player because there are players ahead of you. They’re the scorers, and now I’m a scorer and one of the leaders on the team.”
Turner said McBride has matured since her freshman year.
“She was always a great player, but the only thing that’s changed is now she’s our go-to in pressure situations,” Turner said. “As a person she’s really matured. She’s gone through a lot of adversity, and I respect the way she has come out on top.”
Of course, McBride doesn’t consider her job to be over when the buzzer sounds. She says her teammates call her “the human iPod” and counts her dancing skills as one of her most notable qualities as a friend and teammate. For the record, her favorite dance is “the Dougie.”
But even when McBride and her teammates goof around in the locker room, the painful memories of defeats in the past two national championship games are not far out of sight or mind.
“Up on a corner of our board in our locker room, it says ‘Unfinished Business’ with the score of last year’s game,” McBride said. “It’s a constant reminder of why we work so hard at practice. We might not always want to do it, but there’s a reason behind it, and that’s winning a championship game.”
Contact Vicky Jacobsen at [email protected]