Feb. 11, 2013
Elissa Schneiderman, Texas Media Relations
AUSTIN, Texas -- It's a rare opportunity for an athlete to compete against the best in the nation at her position. Saturday evening, Texas freshman Imani McGee-Stafford relished the chance to battle Baylor senior Brittney Griner - the undisputed top post player in women's college basketball - and McGee-Stafford discovered she has what it takes to contend with the best.
"I'm proud of her effort," said Texas head coach Karen Aston. "I thought she was tremendous on the boards and I thought she competed on every possession."
In Baylor's 75-48 win over the Longhorns in front of 6,693 fans, this season's largest crowd at the Erwin Center, McGee-Stafford earned her third double-double in four games and ninth of the season. She grabbed a season-high 18 rebounds, while posting two blocks and 13 points, including her first three-point basket of the season.
At the same time, McGee-Stafford limited Griner to only three rebounds, her fewest in a game this season, and 14 points.
"She was outstanding," Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said of McGee-Stafford. "She's a big body in there. She's not afraid of physical play. I think she's a very good rebounder. She went against the best in the country today and I thought she did just fine."
Earlier this season, McGee-Stafford explained that the opportunity to compete against Griner was an important factor in her decision to commit to Texas. In Saturday evening's post-game press conference, she said that because of her size, throughout high school she was often compared to Griner. Griner stands 6-foot-eight, an apt comparison for the 6-7 McGee-Stafford.
But McGee-Stafford wants her game, not just her height, to measure up to Griner's impressive collegiate career. McGee-Stafford has Griner's freshman season statistics posted in her dorm room as a concrete reminder of what she aims to achieve as a Longhorn.
"Brittney Griner, for me, is like a human measuring stick," McGee-Stafford said. "I was just excited to play her and see how far I can progress."
Aston called Saturday's game an important learning experience for McGee-Stafford, especially because McGee-Stafford has a lot to learn from Griner.
"What I hope she learns is that the position that Brittney gets herself in on offense is where I want Imani to get," Aston said. "I want her to get one foot from the bucket, too, so that she can have easier shots, and I think she will learn that as she goes along."
After experiencing firsthand McGee-Stafford's skill and physicality in the paint, even Griner was optimistic about McGee-Stafford's future collegiate career.
"She's a big that wants to bang in the post," Griner said. "Over the course of her career, I see her becoming a great player."
For this young Texas team, McGee-Stafford's performance against Baylor is just one instance in a season-long pattern of freshmen stepping up and successfully taking on a great deal of responsibility. Freshman guard Empress Davenport scored 13 points, while posting four rebounds, one assist and one steal Saturday night.
"These freshmen have an opportunity that is unique," Aston said of McGee-Stafford and Davenport. "They are learning in the fire. Every single Big 12 game they play in, I hope that it's a learning experience for them."