Feb. 5, 2003
Courtesy Pullman-Moscow Daily News
By Vince Richardson
Daily News staff writer
PULLMAN, Wash. - Bianca McCall is wise beyond her years, on and off the basketball court.
It wasn't always that way for the Washington State junior forward. She is interested in becoming a sports commentator but, much like the story of her basketball career, even that's up in the air.
"I am kind of waiting for something strong to blow me in a certain direction," she said. She took the scenic route before ending up in Pullman - Division I, junior college, then back to Division I.
McCall is the first to admit she made some questionable decisions. Deciding to play for a Washington State team that hasn't won a game in 43 tries is not one of them.
"I did hear about the things that were going on up here (in Pullman), and the changes that were taking place," McCall said. "But I was completely sold on coach (Sherri) Murrell and had the utmost confidence in her and her game plan for rebuilding the program at Washington State ... I knew she had worked wonders while at Pacific and had earned a reputation for turning programs around."
Being a part of that restructuring program didn't bother McCall.
"I knew that we were going to need time to rebuild the program," she said. "I figured that I could help turn it around and I was really excited about that. I don't have any second thoughts about coming here to Washington State."
Murrell is excited with what she's seen on the court from McCall this season.
"She's done an incredible job for us," the coach said. "She's been awesome. She brings a lot of maturity to this squad and right now, she knows how to handle the load that we've placed on her."
McCall is just pleased to have a second chance.
"Every day I feel lucky to be playing in the Pac-10," she said. "When I get upset, or I'm getting pushed around, I just take a look around and say, 'Hey, I'm in the Pac-10.'"
THE GAME PLAN
At 6-foot-1, McCall is undersized by Pac-10 women's basketball standards. Yet she's managed to put up impressive numbers.
It's all about strategy.
Against the taller players in the conference, she lures them outside, then uses a quick first step, puts the ball on the floor and drives by. She has little problem hitting short jumpers in the lane under extreme duress.
"I like to try and mix it up," she said. "I want to keep them as off balance as possible." She has a professional wrestler's mentality, an alter ego she calls "B Lightning," when she takes to the court. She enjoys watching sports entertainment, a.k.a. professional wrestling, and sees herself as The Rock.
McCall's stats prove her strategy has worked all season.\
She has scored in double-digits in eight of her last nine games and 15 of the last 18. She's tallied 20 or more points in four of her last five games and leads the team in scoring at 13.9 points a game as well as rebounding with 8.7.
In the Pac-10, she averages 15.1 points a game and 9.2 rebounds.
McCall racked up her seventh double-double of the season, 21 points and 10 rebounds against UCLA on Thursday.
There were no second thoughts about coming to play for the Cougars, but she had plenty of second thoughts after she accepted a scholarship to Boise State out of Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa, Calif.
The decision to play for the Broncos wasn't necessarily spur of the moment, neither was it her only option. McCall was recruited by several Pac-10 teams, including WSU.
"I was recruited by Harold Rhodes (1982-99) when he was the coach at WSU," McCall said. "He had a home visit and came to my house and I don't know, out of high school, I was a completely different person. I was like Washington State, yeah, all right. I was recruited by a lot of schools and I guess that WSU just kind of got lost in the shuffle."
Oregon and Oregon State were other Pac-10 teams interested in McCall. Before suffering a torn ACL resulted in a lost senior season, McCall had garnered interest from Washington and Stanford. Then there were schools such as Pepperdine, San Francisco, as well as several other schools in the West Coast Conference.
WSU assistant coach Mark Lewis recruited her while he was at Arizona State.
"I recruited Bianca right out of high school," he said. "At that time she was very heavily recruited, she was on everybody's list."
McCall visited Boise and immediately decided it was the place for her. In the 20/20 vision of hindsight, "I just closed my eyes on that one ... I didn't make the right decision. I kind of based it frivolously on one recruiting trip.
"It was a tough decision right out of high school," she added. "I just wanted to get away from home and I didn't want to live anywhere close or go anywhere in California. But as soon as I left California, I wanted to go back."
The move took many by surprise.
"When she jumped up and signed with Boise State, it shocked everyone," Lewis said.
Boise wasn't the place for McCall. Not even close. She redshirted her freshman year, then decided to leave the program 11 games into the next season.
"I really didn't appreciate playing Division I basketball. I think in choosing a school, there are so many things you have to keep in mind," McCall said. "And I think right out of high school, I wasn't ready to make that sort of decision. Just in knowing where you are going to live for four years - and a million other little things. I simply didn't realize that I had to make that my home and I just wasn't ready to do that."
Boise State released her from her scholarship and McCall headed back to California. She thought about transferring to another Division I school, then decided on an entirely different course of action.
"I re-evaluated it and decided that the junior college route was the way to go," she said. "I never had any doubt that I could play in the Pac-10. It's all about having confidence." So she enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College.
Back in California, at home, in her comfort zone, she made the most of the opportunity and averaged a state-leading 15.1 rebounds, 4.3 blocks and 19 points a game. She was a force in the Bay Valley Conference and named to its first team. She was a second team All-State selection and was a Kodak All-American honorable mention pick.
BEEN HERE, DONE THAT
Then it was back into the shark-infested waters of recruiting. This time around, McCall was wiser and when Murrell came calling, she listened.
The coach had seen what McCall was capable of doing on the court - coaching against her while at The University of the Pacific.
"I thought she was good then" Murrell said. "Then I heard that she'd left and when I got the job here (at WSU), I found out that we had some spots open. So I tracked her down and got on the phone right away."
WSU's contact came late, but McCall had left all avenues open this time around.
Murrell immediately asked why she'd left the Bronco's program. Once that hurdle was cleared, and Murrell was satisfied with the answer, the discussion turned to McCall coming to WSU.
McCall was impressed with what Murrell had to say. McCall said when she talked to the coach and her staff, she could tell they were genuine people, that they were open and honest.
"I didn't get the sense that this was a game, like recruiting can sometimes become," she said. "I was really impressed."
Again, McCall accepted the opportunity to make a visit and was smitten with Pullman.
"I loved it right away," she said. "Pullman, the people, the school, it was great. It's a real college town, which is something I hadn't actually been exposed to. I mean Boise State, it's kind of a commuter school. I knew right away this was the place for me. I'd never been to Pullman before, the closest I'd come was Spokane. But as soon as I stepped on campus, I knew this is where I wanted to be and where I belonged."
"It was a fortunate thing for us," Murrell said. "I knew what she could do at the D-I level. After all, I'd seen her play. I would have been a little more skeptical if I had only seen her play JC ball. It was kind of a risk for me because I'm more of a high school recruiter. I think she was the second JC kid that I signed."
As far as McCall is concerned, it's been a definite change - for the better.
"At JC, I maybe had to learn three plays and they were all around me," she said. "Coming here, we have to learn 30 plays and this person scores on this one and this person scores on that one."
This season, McCall has been the person that scores and rebounds and leads the Cougars (0-19, 0-11).
"There is no doubt in my mind that our first win is coming," she said. "And there will be plenty more after that. I feel we've had just as much success this season as a team, growing, getting better, as a team that is undefeated. Honestly, I am just really thankful for the opportunity. For the second chance."