Erica McCall: From Star Player To Team Player
Thus far, Erica McCall has started every game of her three-year high school career at Ridgeview High School in Bakersfield, Calif., where she averaged 25.8 points, 16.7 rebounds and 7.1 blocks per game in 2011-12. Overall, she's racked up 1,876 points, 1,391 rebounds and 672 blocked shots.
Named to the 2012 USA Basketball Women's U17 World Championship Team on May 20, McCall is one of 12 elite players on the USA roster as it looks to defend its inaugural 2010 title at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship, which will be played Aug. 17-26 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
This week, however, McCall and the USA U17 squad are in Orlando, Fla., training May 28-June 1 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Typically all 12 players on USA Basketball squads are the star players on their respective teams, but once they start competing for their country, minutes are more evenly rotated. That's one of the advantages the U.S. has over other countries - its second five is just as strong as its first five - and players are able to get enough rest to grind through nine games in 11 days. That said, it is an adjustment for athletes to go from playing the entire game to just 20 minutes.
"It can be difficult to change roles sometimes," McCall admitted. "You are used to being the star player back home, but here we are all stars. You just have to adapt to it and play as a team. It's an adjustment, but I like it. It's fun to play with so many great players."
This summer won't be the first time McCall has had to transition from star player to team player. In 2011, she helped the USA qualify for the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship with a 5-0 record and gold medal in the FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Mexico. She averaged 3.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in 2011, after averaging 19.8 points and 16.0 rebounds as a high school sophomore in 2010-11.
"We really came together and got that gold medal, and it was a great experience," McCall said of the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship. "That really helped my leadership abilities and taught me to be more vocal. Coming back to high school, I was more vocal with my team. It helped me become a better person, too, getting to know different people and adapting to a different culture when we went to Mexico. Seeing another culture was something that I really liked."
In 2012, the USA U17 team will play three exhibition games in Caorle, Italy, before traveling to Amsterdam for the World Championship.
"Italy is my dream country, so I'm really excited about going there. I haven't traveled all that much. I went to the Bahamas once and Mexico last year, of course. That's a cool part of this experience -- traveling out of the country."
Interestingly, McCall isn't the first person in her family to play for USA Basketball. Her older sister, DeWanna Bonner earned gold medals with USA Basketball at the 2006 FIBA Americas U20 Championship and the 2007 FIBA U21 World Championship.
"(DeWanna) just told me go hard every time and play every trials session like it's your last, which I did. So, she helped get me here, and my dad did, too. And then I guess my hard work got me here, too."
While McCall said she watches and learns from Bonner's game, it's her dad who watches her game to help her learn.
"I have watched DeWanna in her career and when she played for USA Basketball, and I've learned a lot by watching her. I just try and absorb it all in and take back with me and try it at home. My dad helps me with some fundamentals when he sees me play, and that's helped me a lot. I call him, and he tells me to keep my head up and keep playing hard and to enjoy the experience."
A three-time Bakersfield Californian All-Area MVP, McCall says it's her defense that helps set her apart.
"I'd describe my game as long and hard-working. I love to block shots, that's my favorite thing, and to grab rebounds. Defense is what I love, and it gives me more energy to play the game. I try to go hard every time, and that's what a lot of people like about me. I would just say I go hard."
And while she says making another USA Basketball team is on her list of goals for the future, she has her sights set on finishing her high school career with a bang.
"I would like to make another USA team in the future. And in high school, I want my team to go further in the playoffs than what we've done before. I want to try and get Player of the Year for a fourth time, because no one in my county has done that ever, so that's what I'm going to try and do."
If McCall says that's what she's going to do, basketball fans have no reason to doubt her.