By David Fong
PLEASANT HILL — Tatum McBride didn’t have a map to take her from the Newton girls basketball team on to a college program.
So she decided to chart her own course.
“It feels good, because I know for me coming up through the program it was hard, because I didn’t really have anyone to look to,” said McBride, who signed her national letter of intent Friday to play college basketball at Lenoir-Rhyne University, an NCAA Division II program in Hickory, N.C. McBride is believed to be one of the only girls basketball players in school history to sign to play college hoops. “I kind of looked to my brother Brady, who is running in college (at Ohio University).”
As she gets ready to head into her senior season this winter, McBride already holds a number of school records, including career records for points scored (1,109), free throws attempted (295), 3-point field goals made (104) and assists (256). She also holds single-season records for total points (487), free throws made (104), 3-pointers (67). She also holds the single-game record for 3-pointers in a game with five, which she’s done three times.
Impressive as all of those numbers are, however, perhaps the most impressive statistic is this: Newton has put together three winning seasons in a row with McBride on the team, going 22-3 in 2015 and 17-8 each of the past two years for a total record of 56-19 the past three seasons, easily the highest total in school history.
“I don’t know if we’ve had four or five winnings seasons, total, since the program started before she came along,” Newton girls basketball coach Steve Fisher said. “She’s irreplaceable.”
McBride admits she had never heard of Lenoir-Rhyne until a few months ago. Once the coaching staff made contact with her, however, the recruiting process accelerated in a hurry.
“After they contacted me, I looked them up on the Internet because I wanted to see if it was something I would really be interested in before I took a visit all the way down there,” she said. “That was about two or three months ago. They asked me to come down for a visit and when I went down there, I really liked what I saw. I really liked the campus, even though it is really far away.
“They are going to have six girls coming in next year, so they lose a pretty big senior class. They told us they hope we can contribute right away. The coach (Cameron Sealy) is awesome. This will be the coach’s first year there, so I liked the newness.”
In addition to playing for Newton, McBride also plays for the Dayton Lady Hoopstars Premier team in the offseason, which gave her added exposure as she played in college showcases all across the country. She was named to the all-star team at the Washington D.C. AAU Tournament. McBride said playing AAU in the summer was critical in earning a college scholarship.
“I think it was extra important for me,” she said. “Playing at a small school, it’s hard to get college coaches to come watch you.”
Fisher said he had no doubts McBride will succeed at the next level.
“It’s important for a point guard to provide stability,” he said. “That’s the one common element between all the successful point guards I’ve ever coached. She does that. Last year she had the ball in her hands 75 percent of the time for us. She also provides consistency. She scores, she can shoot and last year she made a big improvement in her ability to get to the basket. Now teams have to back off of her.
“She’s also an incredible leader. She leads by example. She could go out and walk through our practices — not that we would let her — but she never does. In every drill we do, she works as hard or harder than anyone we’ve got. She’s the kind of kid who is there at 6 a.m. for workouts. She’a always willing to put in the extra work and lead by example. And to top it all off, she’s got a 4.0 grade point average. She’s just that kind of kid.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong