Just 79 points shy of surpassing Jackie Stiles’ all-time NCAA women’s basketball scoring mark, the UW senior could get the mark as soon as this weekend. But she would much rather get wins and praise her teammates.
It’s late February in Seattle, which generally means crickets-and-tumbleweed season for sports. No NBA. No NHL. And no actual games taking place in spring training.
Fortunately, a story has emerged that this town never saw coming and might never see again. Its author? One Kelsey Plum.
Plum is going to hate this piece because she only enjoys the spotlight when it shines on her teammates, too. The UW point guard deflects attention as automatically as she strokes home free throws.
But when you’re on the brink of breaking the all-time NCAA scoring record, closing in on the season scoring record, and positioning yourself to be a top pick in the WNBA draft, you’re going to get some ink dedicated to you and you alone. The price of success, I suppose.
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With two regular-season games remaining, Plum sits 79 points shy of breaking Jackie Stiles’ career scoring mark of 3,393 points. And considering Washington is guaranteed at least one Pac-12 tournament game and one NCAA tournament game, this should be a wrap if she stays healthy.
The senior hasn’t scored fewer than 21 points in a single game this season, meaning she would just need to average 19.75 over that stretch to pass Stiles. Weird, isn’t it, that a scoring spree for a 5-foot-8 guard could be such a given?
But that’s the vibe Plum has created in this epic season. Forget the James Harden comparisons for a second — Kelsey is more similar to Isaiah Thomas in many ways. The Celtics point guard has scored at least 20 points in a franchise-record 41 consecutive games, while Plum has done so in all 29 of her contests this year. Perhaps more impressive, Plum’s four 40-point games this season match Thomas’ total, and she has played 24 fewer times.
That’s why it is completely feasible that Plum surpasses Stiles vs. Utah on Saturday. If she is within 50 points before the ball is tipped, it would be foolish for fans to pass on the chance to see history.
But even if she doesn’t set the mark in her final home game, Kelsey is probably worth checking out while you still have the chance. She might very well be having the best individual season in the history of Washington athletics.
Consider this: With 897 points so far, Plum is 166 points away from breaking Stiles’ NCAA season scoring record. That’s not a feat that seems to be getting as much publicity as the career mark, but might be one that survives the longest if she sets it.
If the Huskies get to the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament and win their first-round NCAA tourney matchup, Plum will have at least six games to set that record. And given that her team is 25-4 and owners of the No. 11 ranking in the nation, there’s a good chance she gets more.
Consider this as well: At 30.9 points per game, Plum is averaging 5.6 more than anybody else in the country. That’s striking. But what’s more striking is that she is averaging 5.0 more points than she did last year … despite shooting less.
Yes, Plum took 20.5 field-goal attempts per game last season compared to 19.8 so far this season. But her field-goal percentage has jumped from .405 to .530, while her three-point percentage has gone from .333 to .441. Those are Bob Beamon type leaps. Scour the stat leaders from any league, and you won’t find a top-50 scorer whose percentages improved that dramatically. And you certainly won’t find one who will end up leading the nation in scoring in two consecutive years.
Of course, Plum never really likes talking about any of this individual stuff. She probably doesn’t want to discuss that two WNBA mock drafts (CBS sports and (draftsite.com) have her going No. 2 overall, behind Tennessee’s Diamond DeShields. And she probably doesn’t care that Ohio State junior Kelsey Mitchell, who has 2,411 career points so far, has the potential to catch her next year if she stays in school.
No, all Plum wants to do is win.
That’s fair. This year’s Huskies are better than the team that made a Final Four run last March. And with the nation’s leading rebounder, Chantel Osahor, in the lineup — one that has four players shooting 39 percent or better from deep — this is hardly a one-woman show.
But that one woman is doing things that nobody from her sport has quite done before. So don’t miss the chance to catch her, because you’ll miss her when she’s gone.
1 vs. 2
|Comparing the careers of Southwest Missouri State’s Jackie Stiles (1997-2001) and UW’s Kelsey Plum:|
|44.1||3 Pt %||38.3|