Always involved and always doing her job — Nicole Munger has a key role on the Michigan women’s basketball team, but is often in the shadows of her teammates.
After all, it can be quite challenging to stand out when sharing the backcourt with senior guard Katelynn Flaherty — the program’s soon-to-be all-time leading scorer. Some would take the easy way out by relying on the stars, while others would be discouraged and would throw in the towel.
But not Munger.
The junior guard plays a crucial role for the team and is an important piece to the Wolverines’ puzzle. She has received substantial playing time ever since joining the squad, and she found her spot in the starting lineup this season. Yet Munger is seldom in the spotlight.
Flaherty is a talented scorer who has keys to the offense. Junior center Hallie Thome controls the paint and often gets big blocks. Both have started for the majority of their careers and the fans and critics regularly take notice. But Munger shines too — she just doesn’t get the same glamour.
Munger is a reliable player who is always ready when the team needs her. She’s played an integral role in Michigan’s first two games this season against George Mason and Liberty, and has tallied 27 points, seven rebounds and four steals so far, all while proving to be effective beyond the arc as well.
She put her hustle on display against Liberty. Early in the third quarter, an opposing player held the ball near the top of the key when, suddenly, Munger lunged forward, stripping the ball and causing havoc. The opposing player partially regained possession but Munger wasn’t done yet. She dove to the ground and fought to force a jump ball, switching the possession to the Wolverines.
There was no need for Munger to put herself on the line given the scenario at that time. Michigan was returning from a dominant first half and led 46-26. She could have gotten comfortable, but gritty basketball players like Munger never do the bare minimum.
She was a difference maker in the WNIT championship game last spring too. The Wolverines went into triple overtime against Georgia Tech when she stepped up, scoring seven points in the final overtime to help her team win its first banner.
She was clutch then and could be clutch this season too, as Michigan dreams of making it to the NCAA Tournament in March. She is exactly the type of hardworking, reliable player who could make the team’s dreams come true, and it’d be a lie if the tournament wasn’t on her mind too.
“There’s a lot that goes into a season, but I definitely think the tournament is what our eyes are set on,” Munger said at the team’s Media Day in October.
But Munger is more focused on the next game and the next possession, and will continue to provide the Wolverines the foundation they need.
“ … We have — I don’t even know — 25 games before that, so we have to execute from today, to tomorrow, to every day,” Munger said. “And hopefully we can just take it one day at a time and hopefully by the end of the season our name will be called.”