Becky Flippin isn’t starting anymore. But that hasn’t stopped her from contributing.
In Michigan’s 11 nonconference games — all of which she started — Flippin made just 30 percent of her 3-point attempts. But after coach Cheryl Burnett sat Flippin for the Wolverines’ first Big Ten game on Dec. 30, it took the guard just one more game to get comfortable in her new role and begin to heat up from downtown.
Against Northwestern on Jan. 6, Flippin drained five 3-pointers en route to a career-high 17 points. And she hasn’t cooled off since. Through nine conference games — of which she has started just one — Flippin leads the Big Ten in 3-point field goal percentage, connecting on 54.2 percent of her shots from beyond the arc.
But Flippin’s transition to college basketball wasn’t quite as smooth as her move from starter to role player.
As Michigan’s starting point guard at the beginning of the season, Flippin had to adjust to Burnett’s structured offense after being used in a system in which she could create opportunities for her teammates.
“Becky has an uncanny knack for getting the basketball to open people in the open floor,” Burnett said. “But she had never been asked to call a lot of plays before. Now, she has to be verbal.”
Complicating the situation further was Flippin’s size. Burnett found that when the 5-foot-6 guard was in the starting lineup, opposing teams posted her up to exploit her small stature. Both Burnett and Flippin believe her size doesn’t have to be a disadvantage; Flippin can make up for it with her speed and athleticism.
Teams wouldn’t game plan for Flippin if she wasn’t a starter, so Burnett decided to bring her off the bench.
“At first it was a change I had to get used to,” Flippin said. “But it’s a role I want to take. I wanted to stay a threat on the team.”
So, instead of pouting because she wasn’t starting, Flippin began to show off the skill she had kept quiet about until then.
Flippin said she has always been confident in her 3-point shooting ability. But Burnett believes Flippin can be even more reliable from outside. At a practice this week, Burnett said the freshman drilled 20 triples in a row and is capable of carrying that touch into games, making her an even bigger offensive threat.
While Flippin makes noise with her 3-point shooting, she’s still a quiet person. Her coaches and teammates say it’s simply inherent to her personality. And she’s equally humble. Even after her best games, the freshman answers questions about her performance by giving all the credit to her teammates. That team-first mentality continues to amaze Burnett.
“Becky won’t talk about herself,” Burnett said. “Isn’t that a wonderful quality? She’s really too nice.”
Burnett acknowledges Flippin’s reserved demeanor but still wants the guard to be more demanding when running plays. Flippin said she has consciously worked on becoming more vocal throughout the season — both in terms of talking more and just being louder. Her coaches have started to notice a change.
“It’s amazing making this statement, because all season we’ve said how we’ve got to get her to talk more,” Burnett said. “But Becky’s the one we can hear now. She’s doing a much better job.”
But Flippin — the most team-oriented player on an unselfish team — is not content with just her own improvement as long as Michigan (1-8 Big Ten, 5-15 overall) continues to lose.
“She’s happy that she’s playing well, but it’s not enough unless we’re winning,” freshman co-captain Krista Clement said. “Becky’s still not satisfied.”