When coach Mark Fox started evaluating his current players last April, he knew he had a shooter in McPhee. But he was unsure if McPhee could do much else.
"Well, Ricky I felt like could really shoot the basketball," Fox said. "I think that was glaringly obvious when we first got around him. And really, I didn't know what else he could do. I didn't know if he could handle it, if he could defend, if he had basketball IQ, if he was competitively tough. There were a lot of unknowns, and I didn't know how athletic he was. But, he's certainly been a big part of this team."
McPhee, who transferred from Gardner-Webb before the 2008 season, has proven to Fox, and Georgia fans that he more than capable of handling pressure in the SEC. He's averaged close to 35 minutes a game in conference play, and has shown life inside the 3-point line.
"Definitely, Ricky can go off the dribble," said forward Trey Thompkins. "Ricky is a floor leader, and he can run the point if we need him. Ricky can do a lot of things. He's dynamic, and we appreciate that about his game."
But the former walk-on earned his scholarship shooting the 3. That's what his niche is.
When McPhee has his shot dialed in, he is one of the best shooters in the SEC. He's hit 39.3 percent of his 117 3-point attempts. He's hit double-figures in the scoring column 11 times, including a career-high 21 at Florida.
For McPhee, the label of 3-point specialist is a mark of pride.
"I mean, I just feel honored I guess," McPhee said, "If you say that I'm a good shooter. I just feel really honored when people notice that, and my ability to shoot the ball."
McPhee, who shoots at least 50 3's before every game, has always been a shooter, cultivating his stroke at an early age and continuing his prowess in high school.
"Growing up, playing basketball, shooting has always been my specialty," he said. "I worked on it a lot. I got a lot of shots up and practice at it. It's dedicated to my hard work and being in the gym a lot and getting a bunch of shots up. Growing up, my coaches gave me the confidence, telling me to shoot it so I had the freedom to shoot a lot of shots."
But sometimes McPhee's shooting talent has pitfalls. If he misses a 3, a feeling of disbelief reverberates through Stegeman. At times, fans can't believe he misses.
But at times, shooters simply miss.
Take Wednesday for example, at Auburn, where McPhee finished 2-of-9 from beyond the arc.
"I was off on Wednesday night at Auburn," he said. "I played pretty bad. I was really disappointed in myself. I felt like I let my team down. You just have to learn from the experience. I know that I have confidence in my ability, and I know that I can make the next shot."
Like a football kicker, a miss from McPhee seems to sting more than a miss from any other player. But his teammates say they trust McPhee with any shot.
"Well it happens to everybody," Thompkins said. "Nobody is perfect all season. I would never get down on Ricky about that because I know he could be good for a stellar night tomorrow. We try to emphasize to Rick that you've got to worry about the next shot. There is nothing you can do about the last one. Just keep shooting."
And, just like a kicker, a good shooter must have a short-term memory. With South Carolina coming to Athens today, McPhee has redemption on the mind.
"I'm excited to get back out there against South Carolina and redeem myself," he said. "…It's funny. I had a couple of great looks at the basket that I usually knock down that just weren't falling the other night. Maybe I thought about it a little too much. But I'm not going to go dig in too deep. I know I can shoot the ball. I'm still confident in myself."
Added Fox: "Well he's got a green light. He knows I trust him to shoot, and if he doesn't shoot it a bunch tomorrow I'll be mad at him."