BreAnne McPhilamy is a survivor.

In her four years at Michigan, the senior has experienced some
of the most turbulent times in the history of the women’s
basketball program. She’s played for two coaches, dealt with
sporadic playing time and seen dozens of teammates come and go. By
all accounts, McPhilamy has handled it all with class, seeing
through her commitment to the Wolverines. And now, after an
offseason spent strengthening her body and working on her game, the
6-foot-2 forward is ready to make her biggest impact yet.

“What she did from the end of (last) year to the first day
of practice has been phenomenal in terms of her work ethic,
commitment, what she did in the weight room,” coach Cheryl
Burnett said. “We test players on their physical aspects
— how fast they sprint, how much they lift. Bre’s just
made incredible improvements from a year ago.”

In Michigan’s first exhibition game against Athletes in
Action, McPhilamy’s improvement was obvious. During her 16
minutes of playing time, McPhilamy went 5-for-7 from the field,
scoring a career-high 10 points and pulling down four boards.
Apparently, McPhilamy remembers a thing or two from her days at
Portage Northern High School, where she averaged 18.5 points per
game as a senior.

“It felt good,” McPhilamy said. “I was getting
a lot of good screens from people. They were just looking for me,
and I was hitting shots when I was open. I give a lot of credit to
my teammates for helping me out, getting me open, and getting me
the ball.”

While McPhilamy looks poised to have her best season on the
court, her biggest impact might come off of it. She has made
herself readily available to the Wolverines’ seven freshmen,
providing academic assistance as well as a place to relax.

“I try to do what I can to help them out if they have
questions about school or if they need help with studying,”
McPhilamy said. “I helped someone out with a paper the other
day. I’ve been able to have them over my house a lot, so we
can hang out in a non-basketball setting.”

Her coach is especially impressed with the example McPhilamy
sets for the younger players.

“In the classroom, (McPhilamy) is a tremendous example of
responsibility,” Burnett said. “And off the floor,
there could not be a better ambassador for Michigan. There could
not be a better ambassador for women’s basketball.”

This praise is even more impressive considering the adversity
McPhilamy has faced in her Michigan career. A first team All-State
selection as a high school senior, she came to Michigan the year
after its last NCAA Tournament appearance. But beginning in
McPhilamy’s freshman year, the program took a turn for the
worse. The women’s team’s struggles went far beyond not
making the Big Dance — the Wolverines limped to a 9-23 Big
Ten record over her first two seasons. To add insult to injury,
McPhilamy played just 71 minutes during that span.

Following McPhilamy’s sophomore season, former coach Sue
Guevara resigned, opening the door for Burnett’s tenure.
While the new coaching staff brought a fresh sense of optimism, the
transition wasn’t easy, and Michigan finished the year with a
14-17 record. After the season, many of Guevara’s recruits
transferred or quit the team, leaving McPhilamy, senior Tabitha
Pool and sophomore Kelly Helvey as the only returning players on
this year’s squad.

Poised and optimistic, McPhilamy has taken it all in stride.
She’s shrugged off the disappointments, the turmoil and the
roster turnover of the past three years. Now, without a hint of
bitterness, she’s looking forward to a successful final
campaign in Ann Arbor.

“Change has been good,” McPhilamy said. “I
really like the coaches, and I’m excited for what
they’re doing here. (Pool) and I have both been through a
lot, so we’ve had a lot of experience dealing with
situations. It’s made us stronger people on and off the
court.”

McPhilamy and the Wolverines will face off against the
Australian Institute of Sport tonight at 7 p.m. in Crisler
Arena.

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