Sometimes you don’t know the full story.
To me, senior center Victoria Macaulay was a 6 foot, 4 inch naturally gifted athlete with the body, shooting touch, finesse and athleticism not many centers have. I even pegged her as an Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year candidate early this season.
But for all of her natural qualities, I always thought she should take over a game far more often than she did the past three seasons. I was critical more often than not.
But then coach Tonya Cardoza told this story.
“I just remember watching her in AAU and other coaches, not laughing at her, but like, ‘How is she going to help?’” Cardoza said. “I was just like, ‘Just give it till her junior year and I promise you she’s going to be different.’”
Macaulay played pickup ball with the team on her recruiting trip to Temple. Let’s just say former forward Jasmine Stone wasn’t impressed.
“Jasmine came back in the office after that game and said, ‘Coach, what the heck are you doing, she’s horrible,’” Cardoza said. “And I was like, ‘Jasmine, she’s probably nervous.’ And she was like, ‘No coach, she stinks, she’s horrible.’”
Cardoza said Macaulay had trouble simply catching a pass when she got to Temple despite averaging 20 points per game as a senior at Curtis High School in Staten Island, N.Y.
But Macaulay’s story has defied the odds.
In her freshman year at Temple she played 26 games, starting three and averaged three points and 2.7 rebounds.
A year later she made 24 starts in 33 games, scoring 4.6 points while snagging 4.5 boards.
Last season she started 22 of 30 games played, averaging 9.7 points and 7.5 rebounds. But something clicked during the A-10 season, with Macaulay becoming a mainstay in the paint with 11.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game over the final 20 games.
Then this year she put it all together. Mostly.
Macaulay averaged 14.1 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, and shot 68.2 percent on free throws, proving clutch from the line in late-game situations. She also recorded 12 double-doubles in 32 games despite being the target of every defense.
“To see someone start where they barely played their freshman year, could barely catch the basketball, to the point where you’re getting double-and-triple teamed,” Cardoza said. “That’s a sign of respect for the job that you’ve done.”
But Macaulay’s well-documented benching midway through the season proved she still had a lot of growing to do.
“I feel like I could have done a lot better in a couple of games when my team needed me,” Macaulay said.
Cardoza said the biggest obstacle left for Macaulay to work on is between the ears, as it was all season.
“Some of it is because she doesn’t want to really accept the things that she’s not doing well and try to correct those little things that could change her from maybe getting invited to a camp to being drafted [in the WNBA],” Cardoza said.
Yes, Cardoza believes Macaulay could play in the pros, but that’s a topic to follow in the coming months.
Macaulay also didn’t win a conference title, but neither did greats like Marilyn Stephens, Shey Peddy and Kristen McCarthy.
This season alone proved how committing to the sport can make all the difference.
Macaulay walked off the court in Hagan Arena on March 10 in the Top 25 in program history in points (972) and points in a season (452). Her 300 rebounds this season ranks seventh all-time while her 740 career boards is ninth in team history.
Blocking became her forte, swatting away 91 shots this season, fourth in Temple history. She was seven short of the record. Macaulay is fourth in career blocks, with 211.
“Where in the past she would always be in foul trouble for trying to block shots, now she picks and chooses which ones to go after,” Cardoza said.
Not bad for someone scouts thought wouldn’t be able to contribute at the Division I level. Macaulay cemented her legacy as one of the best to don the Cherry and White, and one of the best success stories in recent memory.
“Just being mentally tough,” Macaulay said of what she thinks her legacy is. “Just loving the sport and being committed to the sport. Learning what family really means and learning how to be a leader and a great teammate. I learned a lot from this program and I’ll continue to let it advance my game in the future.”
“Just her growth has probably been her biggest thing that I will remember, watching her start from the bottom and working herself up to the top,” Cardoza said.
Sometimes you don’t know the full story.
Jake Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jakeadams520.