With time winding down in the Gophers’ season-opening loss to Missouri State on Tuesday Sara Scalia got the ball, drove to the basket, got a little contact, and scored.
It was her first college basket. The first, it would appear, of many.
OK, so this is not an outlandish prediction. Scalia is a former Stillwater High School star who started playing as an eighth-grader and led the Ponies to the Class 4A state championship game as a senior. She finished her prep career with the school record in scoring (2,601) as well as steals and assists.
She was coach Lindsay Whalen’s first recruit.
But, for a freshman playing in her first college game, Scalia’s debut was impressive. Coming in off the bench, she played well enough to get 20 minutes of playing time, hitting two of three three-pointers on the way to eight points. The way the 5-10 guard played defense guarantees she’ll get significant time in Sunday’s game against Vermont at Williams Arena.
Playing in front of friends and family, the moment wasn’t too big.
“She’s been that way from the start,’’ Whalen said. “Nothing really seems to affect her, bother her. She came out and had a nice take in the first half, played great defense.’’
Scalia also had three rebounds and a steal.
“I was a little nervous,’’ Scalia said. “When I first got out there it was kind of crazy at first. I’ve been watching the Gophers since I was little. But, once I got out there, I just had to play basketball.’’
Considering the way Scalia was during summer workouts and early in training camp, this is a mouthful. At first she was quiet. On the court and off. Maybe too quiet.
Early on, Whalen wondered why. But as Scalia got more comfortable she opened up.
“Once she got more confident she started talking a little more,’’ point guard Jasmine Brunson said.
Scalia’s ability to shoot the three — she shot at a 41.5% clip as a senior at Stillwater — combined with her defense is going to get her a lot of playing time on a Gophers team committed to playing a smaller lineup.
Given how she handled her debut, that could be sooner rather than later.
“There are certain players, they have that,’’ Whalen said. “She’s kind of got that moxie. She played in a state championship game. She played at a high level in summer basketball in AAU. She’s not afraid of the big lights.’’