DePaul’s Centrese McGee: Superconductor

CHICAGO - One problem coaches face is conveying what they want a player or team to do versus that player or team doing it. DePaul women’s basketball coach Doug Bruno does not have that situation with his senior guard, Centrese McGee.

“She is constantly bringing us great energy off the bench,” said Bruno of McGee. “She is one of those players where she knows her role, her energy, and she can play any position on the floor.”

“[Bruno] doesn’t have to tell me [what he expects],” said McGee. “I pretty much know that I am coming in to give a lot of energy, so I psych myself on the bench and get ready to bring that energy and speed the game up.”

That energy is not something McGee carries off the hardwood as she is self-admittedly “pretty laid back off the court,” but it helped her to a Third Team All-State selection at Thornton Fractional North High School and to a basketball scholarship at the University of Illinois. McGee started all 32 games for the Illini in 2010, leading all Big Ten freshmen with 5.2 rpg and placing second for freshmen in steals at 1.2 per game. The following year brought a torn ACL and a transfer to DePaul.

McGee sat out 2012 under NCAA transfer guidelines, earning DePaul’s Shirley Becker Academic Award and a spot on the Big East All-Academic Team that year, but time on the court moved backward and forward for her.

“I was able to practice while sitting out. Not being able to play and sitting out was hard, but I felt better because I could help in practice. Being on the scout team, playing defense on our players, and helping them get ready for big games meant a lot because that was all I could do.”

McGee found the the change to the Big East a better outlet for her style of play.

“The pace in the Big 10 is slower, and there is not a lot of full court pressure, so it slows the game down. In the Big East it is a lot faster. It was not hard for me to adjust to that pace of play because I am always moving fast. I like the faster pace and it works better for me.”

It is rare that a collegiate basketball player is best remembered for one play during a season or a career if it does not involve a game-winning shot. Duke’s Haley Peters probably remembers.

In DePaul’s Sweet Sixteen win last year versus the Blue Devils, McGee contributed two points, three rebounds, and one steal in 15 minutes of play. And at 8:04 of the first half, McGee made a play that summarized last year for her when she ran from DePaul’s baseline to Duke’s free throw line, chasing down Peters and the ball on a Duke fast break, poking the ball away, and landing three rows deep under the Duke basket.

“I knew the ball was in the front court and we had to chase it down. It was an important game and I had to make a play.”

Not just a play, but perhaps the play that put Duke on notice as to what type of pressure it would face the entire game. The Blue Devils had 21 turnovers and DePaul had 12 steals for the game.

McGee was displaced from her sixth woman role this year for one game when she started due to an injury to a regular starter, a situation that was seamless.

“It was different because I had not started since my freshman year. And at this point I love bringing energy off the bench, so to have to start off with it was different for me, but I would not say it was difficult.”

McGee is averaging 16 minutes per game this year. She is second on DePaul in offensive rebounds and total rebounds, and fifth on the team in steals. Bruno knows that any points McGee can give him is an added bonus to why she is usually the first person he summons off the bench.

“On a night [versus Hampton] when some of our more prominent scorers were not scoring, I thought she was a very important key to that first half [seven first half points, including a three-pointer],” said Bruno.

McGee describes her job as “wreaking havoc on other teams and making it difficult for them to make the simple pass. I find energy in opponents turning the ball over.”

But there aren’t any deep-seated psychological theories on why she is able to do what Bruno asks her to do each game. McGee says it comes down to a fundamental and simple reason.

“It’s fun.”

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