Three-time NBA all-star Dan Majerle, who excelled at Central Michigan, doesn’t even hold his hometown Traverse City’s scoring record anymore.
That honor belongs to a Michigan sophomore – on the women’s basketball team.
Kalyn McPherson, a superb scorer at Traverse City West high school, said she primarily used drives to the basket and mid-range jump shots on her way to totaling 2,012 career points (21.1 per game) – including a record 48 points in a state tournament game in 2005.
So when former Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett described each of the team’s freshmen before last season, calling McPherson the scorer of the bunch made perfect sense.
But the 5-foot-7 guard didn’t light it up offensively for the Wolverines last year. She averaged just 3.3 points per game, yet her playing time was fairly consistent.
She did almost everything else well, seemingly doing all the little things right.
McPherson was one of just four players, and the lone freshman, to test out of Burnett’s summer condition program before the season. In the process, she set the all-time team squat record with 361 pounds and benched 145 pounds (fifth all-time).
Beyond, she showed tremendous leadership.
When fellow freshman Krista Phillips teared up during the post-game press conference after a loss at Miami (Ohio) last season, McPherson was at the center’s side to console her.
When freshman Sireece Bass stood dejectedly on the outskirts of Michigan’s post-game mid-court huddle after blowing a late lead to Notre Dame in part because of several Bass miscues, McPherson pulled her in with the rest of the team.
“Every now and then, we all need someone to bring us together,” McPherson said. “My teammates will always bring me back in when I need it, too.”
McPherson’s versatility helped contribute on the court in areas other than scoring.
“Everybody on her team can go out and play hard, and hustle, and dive, and rebound and play defense,” Bass said.
And McPherson definitely did all of that.
Burnett and her staff kept statistics on categories like blocking out, decision making with the basketball and defensive positioning. McPherson was overwhelmingly on the positive side of all those statistics, Burnett said.
Still, McPherson couldn’t seem to find shots early in the season. She attempted 16 – and made just four – in her first seven games.
But something seemed to click for McPherson once Big Ten play began. She was getting to the hoop off the dribble. In the first nine conference games, McPherson was second on the team in field-goal attempts, many of them off dribble drives.
But those shots still weren’t falling. She had a dismal .231 field-goal percentage in that span, the lowest on the team.
“Her next level, and she’s been working really hard, is hitting shots,” Phillips said.
“We all know she can drive to the basket, but she’s working really hard to get her shot where it needs to be.”
Michigan’s new coach, Kevin Borseth, thinks if McPherson gets more confident, the shooting problems will disappear.
“I sense watching her that she’s afraid to make a mistake,” Borseth said. “That’s what I sense, she feels like she’s in prison right now, just locked up.”
Her Traverse City counterpart Marjerle earned the nickname “Thunder Dan” because of his ability finish his dribble-penetrations strongly.
If McPherson can invoke her inner Majerle, she could live up to Burnett’s other label for her – one of the most underrated recruits in the country – and maybe take on a third title: “Thunder Kalyn.”
– Alex Prosperi contributed to this report.