In the 1990s, Kids growing up in Chicago metropolitan would try to emulate their favorite Bulls on the court – like Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen.

Sarah Royce
Melinda Queen gets fouled as she makes a running jumper during the game against Wisconsin at Crisler Arena on jan. 29th. (JEREMY CHO/Daily)

But Michigan freshman Melinda Queen couldn’t escape the constant references to Chicago power forward Horace Grant.

“When I was younger, I did watch Horace Grant because I am from Chicago, and I loved the Bulls,” Queen said.

It had nothing to do with her play on the court. Rather, it was the eyewear the Oak Forest, Ill. native has sported in games since she started playing basketball in seventh grade that provoked comparisons to the former NBA star.

Similar to the four-time NBA champion, Queen wears Recspecs protective goggles when she plays. The freshman dons the eyewear to protect her right eye because she already has problems in the left one. She also says that if she didn’t wear them and got hit in the right eye, she wouldn’t be able to play.

The eyewear is the not the only similarity between Grant and Queen.

Just like Grant, who earned NBA All-Defensive second team honors four times, Queen is making her presence known on defense.

She leads the team in steals per 40 minutes, averaging 2.38. In Sunday’s game at Minnesota, she grabbed a career-high six rebounds.

“She gives us such a good physical presence as a (small forward),” Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said. “With her wingspan, she does a great job because she can get a lot of deflections, and she anticipates well.”

After starting three games early in the year, Queen’s playing time has topped 20 minutes in each of the last five games.

“Because of marked improvement in her stamina over the past month, she has worked her way back in the lineup,” Burnett said.

Teammate Janelle Cooper doesn’t notice any difference in Queen’s performance in practice and believes the freshman’s consistency might have contributed to the increase in playing time.

“She just continues to work hard,” Cooper said. “She comes in every day and does the same thing every day. It’s paying off for her.”

Queen’s continued intensity during practice has also translated into better offense.

As a 6-foot-1 wing with great length, Queen uses her size to her advantage when playing against a smaller defender. In Sunday’s loss to Minnesota, she matched a career high in points (7), primarily by posting up and hitting lay-ups.

Early in the year, Queen showed a prowess to knock down jump shots.

“One thing that we were trying to have her get better at was handling the basketball,” Burnett said.

Burnett said she noticed Queen has improved her ability to penetrate and make the pass to set up a good look at the basket for one of her teammates.

In last week’s loss at Penn State, Queen set a career high with five assists, all of them coming while the Wolverines built an early 12-point advantage.

Queen shows her ability to make the extra pass when she dishes the ball inside to the post, kicks it out to the perimeter and skips it across the court for a three.

With her Recspecs-aided court vision, she will strive to become a force at both ends of the court, like Grant.

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