McFarland carries women’s basketball team to solid performance
The 2006-2007 CU women’s basketball team is already way ahead of last year’s schedule. With one more win this season, the Buffs will match their overall and Big 12 win totals from last season.
A big part of the team’s improvement can be credited to 6-foot-3-inch forward Jackie McFarland. This junior from Derby, Kan., is having a terrific season, and her stats bear that out. McFarland is averaging a double-double for the Buffs, with 19.2 points per game and 10.7 rebounds per game.
The solid play from CU’s junior post player is a much-needed sight for head coach Kathy McConnell-Miller. McConnell-Miller, in her second season as the Buffs’ head coach, is overseeing one of the Big 12’s youngest clubs.
McConnell-Miller said her junior star has been an integral piece of her improving team.
“She’s been as consistent of a player as we’ve had and I’ve been around. She really prepares before the game and in the film room,” McConnell-Miller said.
McConnell-Miller was also quick to praise McFarland’s tireless work ethic as a big factor in her success.
“She’s just a worker. She never stops playing, never takes a possession off, hates to come out of the game and has a really good feel for this team and what we need of her,” McConnell-Miller said. “Her work ethic is second to none.”
The hard work McFarland puts into her game was rewarded last season with a second team All-Big 12 honor. More awards could be headed McFarland’s direction at the end of this season if she continues to dominate the Big 12 at her current pace.
McFarland ranks third in the conference in scoring and second in rebounding. She also is second in the country with a sparkling 67.1 field goal percentage.
When asked about her start to the season, McFarland only spoke about her excitement for the Buffs’ young ball club.
“I think it’s been a good season so far. I think we’ve been growing a lot, and we’re getting healthy,” McFarland said. “I think we have a lot more confidence this year and a lot more weapons. We have a lot of shooters, a lot of post players, a lot of people that can do different things.”
The confidence McFarland alluded to will be important for this young squad trying to make it through perhaps its toughest stretch of the season.
After starting out league play 2-0 for the first time since the 1996-1997 season, the Buffs have encountered three consecutive ranked opponents with Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma.
Despite losing the first two games of the stretch, McFarland and her teammates feel much better about their play this season.
“I don’t know if we’re worried about our confidence. Every team is going to go on their runs,” said sophomore center Kara Richards.
McFarland’s coach has a tough time imagining where her team would be without her All-Big 12 post player.
“Her leadership is very important. We know she’s going to show up statistically speaking, but her ability to lead and keep everyone together is something that we need to rely on,” McConnell-Miller said.
Despite the rough stretch CU has encountered since its 2-0 league start, the Buffs prove to be a streaky team that can get hot at any moment.
The Buffs enjoyed two separate three-game winning streaks during the season in addition to a four-game losing streak.
Despite new pieces to the Buffs team this season, McFarland has kept her performance at a high level, and her coach believes she belongs in the conversation with some of the better post players in the country.
“She’s in the top five (post players in the country) with quite a few seniors that will be first-round draft picks,” McConnell-Miller said. “Those other players rely more on their athleticism and their ability to out-jump people, but Jackie’s ability to out-work people makes her special.”
While her coach says that the WNBA is a very real possibility in her future, McFarland doesn’t want to get ahead of herself.
“I take those things as they go. I’m not thinking about that really at all right now,” McFarland said. “I definitely think it would be fun to (play professionally), but right now I just want to help my team and be the best leader that I can.”