Friday, 10 March 2017 16:10

Kelsey Plum: Basketball Players are Made, Not Born

By Damian Fantauzzi | Sports

No one has scored more points in women’s Division I NCAA basketball history than Kelsey Plum. She is just behind “Pistol Pete” Maravich (LSU 1967-1970), who still ranks as the all-time point producer in the history of NCAA basketball.

Kelsey Plum plays women’s basketball for the University of Washington Huskies in Seattle, Washington.  In the final regular-season game of her college career on Washington’s senior night, she rewrote the history books of Women’s NCAA Basketball. Plum scored a career high of 57 points, surpassing Jackie Stiles’ historical career, with an astronomical 3,393 collegiate career points.

Interesting story about this young lady: her cousin, Marty Canavan, is a former high school teammate at Mechanicville High School, and former all-time scorer at Siena College. Canavan is a retired Skidmore College professor. He gave me a little of his genetic connection to Plum. “My Aunt Margaret Canavan (oldest sister of my dad Marty Canavan) is Kelsey’s great-grandmother. Aunt Margaret and her husband moved from N.Y. to San Diego area in 1949. She was the only one of nine Canavan siblings to live her life out of the Capital District region. Aunt Margaret’s daughter Mary Ann Plum (my cousin) had a son Jim Plum (Kelsey’s dad). So, Marty’s cousin Mary Ann is Kelsey’s grandmother.” A small note of interest on the Canavan connection, Marty and Kelsey are both left-handed.

In an article in USA Today, writer Dan Uthman interviewed Utah’s coach Lynne Roberts as Plum carried No. 12 Washington to an 84-77 victory over Utah on Feb. 26, with a dazzling performance. She needed what might have been considered a long shot of 54 points entering the day to break Stiles’ record and did so with a second-half barrage where Plum couldn’t be stopped.

“We tried everything. And she just kind of took over. ... It was almost like she became possessed,” Roberts said. “Even as the opposing coach you stand there like, ‘Holy cow. This kid.’ “

Plum hit 19-of-28 shots and was 13-of-16 at the free-throw line. She scored 38 points through three quarters and took over in the fourth after teammate Chantel Osahor, UDUB’s top rebounder, fouled out early in the quarter.

Unfortunately, on March 3, No. 6 Pac-12 Tournament seed Oregon eliminated the No. 3 seed University of Washington women’s basketball team 70-69 in the quarterfinals. Kelsey Plum netted 34 points. The Huskies were squeezed out of the Pac-12 tournament of champions. UDUB now has to wait to see where they will go in the “Big Dance” on the women’s side; they are currently ranked 11th nationally in A.P.’s college basketball poll.

As a basketball coach for more than 40 years, I am awed by this young woman’s athleticism and especially her ability as a player. She grooved her shot, especially from outside the 3-point arc, as well as her ability with ball-handling.  

Plum worked at a summer basketball camp near her hometown with one of the top boys’ high school programs in the country. She competed against boys and men and was able to play pickup basketball with some professional basketball players from the NBA.

Competing against men is not a new idea, it was a philosophy that the late and legendary Pat Summit practiced at Tennessee. I know the importance this has for girls who want to excel at their game. When I coached girls at Saratoga I encouraged them to play against quality male basketball players.

Plum was focused to raise her game to an even higher level.  Through her determination to be the best she could be along with her internal drive to succeed, she became the all-time leading scorer in NCAA Women’s Basketball history. Congratulations to Plum on her accomplishments through her hard work and dedication. I always have said that basketball players are made and not born, and here’s the proof:  Kelsey Plum.

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