At 6-foot-2, Lisa McBride uses her height to benefit her on the basketball court, but when she started playing, she wasn’t nearly that tall.
She began when she was 4 years old on a YMCA team that was coached by her mom and continued to play as she grew through elementary school, junior high and high school, as well as on club teams.
“I enjoy it because it’s different and it helps me be a better basketball player,” McBride said of the rebounding and shot-blocking advantages her height provides.
As the tallest player on the Cal Poly women’s basketball team, McBride, a junior, has towered her way to 10.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, both second on the team, as is her 47.5 field-goal percentage.
A skilled power forward, her team-leading 78.6 free-throw percentage is fifth in the Big West Conference.
After starting 17 times as a sophomore, this season she’s led the Mustangs in rebounding nine times and in scoring on seven occasions.
Before coming to Cal Poly, McBride was a multi-sport star at Flowing Wells High in her native Tucson, Ariz., where she played tennis and volleyball and was a high jumper in addition to making her presence felt in basketball.
A four-year letterwinner on the hardwood, she nearly averaged a triple-double as a senior, posting 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists per game, helping the Caballeros capture a region championship. She was named the state’s Class 5A Player of the Year in her final prep season.
Despite also lettering in volleyball for four years and being named to the All-5A First Team as a senior, she eventually decided to focus mainly on basketball because of her confidence in it and the unique joy from playing within a team.
“I like that it’s a team sport because I get more joy and pleasure out of seeing everyone succeed together,” McBride said.
Both she and Cal Poly head coach Faith Mimnaugh agree her strengths are her ability to communicate well with other players on the court as well as her rebounding skills. Even after McBride’s become such a valuable contributor for the Mustangs (9-15, 6-5), she and Mimnaugh each believe she can be even better.
“She has a vision of what she would like to become,” Mimnaugh says. “She wants to hear what coaches say about how she can improve.”
In the Mustangs’ 55-54 win over Cal State Fullerton on Jan. 10, McBride pulled down a career-high 14 rebounds, the most by a Cal Poly player since November 2006.
McBride, 21, says her primary goal for herself is to continue to take smart shots on the court and keep being a vigorous rebounder so the Mustangs can accomplish their main goal, winning the Big West Tournament and advancing to the NCAA Tournament.
“I love to play the game,” she says. “It’s exciting and fun and I’ve made great relationships with the people on my team. They’re like my family.”
The business major attributes her success in basketball to three people: her mother, who played college basketball at Denver, her grandfather and her high school basketball coach.
“My mom is a single mom and always took the time to help me by coming to my events and giving me the money for special basketball camps,” she said.
McBride, whose academic success in high school earned her the Dr. Voie Stuart Chase Coy Scholar-Athlete Award, added that her grandfather supported her by attending all of her basketball games when she was growing up, and her coach helped find a college where she felt comfortable and could play basketball.
For Mimnaugh, the decision was a comfortable one, too.
“She has demonstrated by actions, words and effort that she is one of the strongest leaders on the team,” Mimnaugh said. “She emerges as a leader in whatever she touches. Cal Poly is fortunate to have such a diverse person on campus.”