Jan. 12, 2010
By Michael Jeremiah
SEATTLE - The 2010 Pac-10 schedule has been filled with surprises in its infancy, none bigger to those outside the program than the strong showing the upstart Washington Huskies. According to senior Laura McLellan, no one in the Washington locker room is surprised by their 3-1 record in conference.
"We knew that we were capable of beating all the teams that we've played," said McLellan. "We think that we could even be 4-0 right now, with a tough start against Oregon. I think everyone in this program is not surprised, but I can almost guarantee everyone outside is."
One surprise from the senior came in the second half of the Arizona game last Saturday, when a referee's whistle upset the veteran post. Always a volatile player on the court, her frustration was visible to anyone. She avoided any confrontation, and instead let her play do the talking for the rest of the half.
McLellan was one of the driving forces behind the come-back 69-59 victory, notching 15 points, all in the second half to go along with six rebounds. The Huskies fought back from an eight point deficit, and a lot of that credit can go to the senior.
In the past, her expressive playing style sometimes got in the way of a good game. This year, McLellan is using the fervor she brings to the game to improve her play.
"I've always been a really emotional player, now I'm just starting to target my emotions in more of a positive way," said McLellan. "Calls still frustrate me but I'm just trying to turn it into, if I don't get a call going my way [I'll] make it up on the other end. I think I did that against Arizona in picking up a couple key plays. It really fires you up."
As a senior, McLellan has adjusted to a role coming off the bench. The arrival of Regina Rogers from UCLA moved McLellan out of the starting lineup, but not out of the box score. McLellan is still one of the team leaders in blocks, and has created matchup problems for opponents.
The depth of the Huskies this year has been marred by injuries, but the quality of their inside players has never been in question. Rogers has been a valuable addition, and with Mollie Williams and Mackenzie Argens showing improvement, it's a crowded frontcourt.
One of the keys to the Huskies' early success has been their team mentality.
"Our players have done a good job of complimenting one another and feeling just as excited as if they were themselves putting the basket in the hole, snatching that rebound or getting that block," said Coach Tia Jackson.
McLellan has been a leader from the bench and on the court. This weekend will give her the opportunity to show that in front of her hometown crowd when the Huskies head to the Bay Area to take on California and second-ranked Stanford.
A native of Campbell, Calif., McLellan grew up about fifteen minutes from Stanford's campus and played AAU basketball in high school with Cardinal star Jayne Appel. The chance to play against an old teammate that she considers one of the top players in college basketball is only one of the things that have her excited about the trip to Northern California.
"It's always nice to play well in front of your friends and family," said McLellan. "This will be my last trip down to the Bay Area so I hope to go out with a bang for everyone that's there."
The excitement surrounding the program right now is evident in the increased attendance over the weekend, but McLellan knows that the team has to keep momentum moving forward to have a successful season.
That starts this weekend in the Bay Area, first against super freshman DeNesha Stallworth and California before Appel's Cardinal team on Saturday. The senior showed leadership in their last game against Arizona, and hopes to do the same in practice this week before facing the tough Northern California trip this weekend.
"We have to work hard every day and not get comfortable with where we are at," said McLellan.