Adjusting to life in the spotlight

Junior forward Kristen McCarthy, one of the Top 5 scorers in the Atlantic Ten, looks to build on last year’s breakout season. Despite an outstanding start to her career, junior forward Kristen McCarthy of the

Junior forward Kristen McCarthy, one of the Top 5 scorers in the Atlantic Ten, looks to build on last year’s breakout season.

Despite an outstanding start to her career, junior forward Kristen McCarthy of the women’s basketball team is not nearly satisfied by her own individual achievements.

Instead, as the 2010-11 season quickly approaches, McCarthy is focused on bonding with her teammates, improving her defensive skills and, perhaps most importantly, winning.

“This season, I’m just excited to play with my teammates,” McCarthy said. “I enjoy basketball so much, but I’m enjoying it even more because of the great group of people that I’m around.”

McCarthy led the Owls to a 25-9 record last season, became an All-Atlantic Ten Conference First Team selection and was also named Big 5 Player of the Year. She averaged a team-high 14.8 points and ranked second on the team in rebounds with six per game. This season, McCarthy has big expectations for Temple and said she believes the team is already off to a great start.

“Even before official practice started, we were working very hard in summer workouts,” McCarthy said. “Our team has a good attitude, and we’re working extremely hard. I have scratches and bruises already, and we haven’t even actually started playing. That goes to show you how hard my teammates and I are actually working.”

McCarthy has become accustomed to hard work throughout her time at Temple, coach Tonya Cardoza said.

“Every year that Kristen has been here, she has worked harder in the off-season to try to improve whatever she felt like she needed to improve on,” Cardoza said. “Last year, she definitely took it upon herself to become a better free-throw shooter and more consistent. This year, she’s trying to become a better passer and a better leader.

“She has all the qualities to needed to be one of the best players that ever played at Temple,” Cardoza added.

McCarthy was already familiar with the spotlight before she landed on North Broad Street.

As a senior at Bishop Amat Memorial High School in La Puente, Calif., McCarthy, who averaged 16 points, seven rebounds and three steals per game, led the team to back-to-back California State titles in 2005 and 2006. McCarthy was named the San Gabriel Valley Tribune’s Player of the Year twice and was recognized by as one of the Top 150 players in the nation.

After she graduated high school, McCarthy didn’t take long to adjust to her new surroundings in Philadelphia. She quickly became one of the team’s most productive players, averaging 8.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game as a freshman. Her efforts did not go unnoticed; she was named to the A-10’s All-Rookie Team and voted Big 5 Rookie of the Year.

McCarthy built on that success again last season when she assumed a leadership position alongside senior guard LaKeisha Eaddy. But now, McCarthy will be expected to fill the void left by Eaddy’s graduation.

“Last year, the coaches really wanted me to take on a leadership role, but now I have to fill that role even more,” McCarthy said. “I’m not only trying to be more vocal, but I’m trying to lead by example as well. I’m just encouraging my teammates to know that everyone is doing well and working hard and holding each other accountable.”

Cardoza said McCarthy and her experienced teammates can fill any leadership position through their dedication, on and off the court.

“Her work ethic speaks for itself,” Cardoza said. “When they’re doing their conditioning in the preseason, she’s trying to come in for us and set the tone.

Not only her, but also all of the upperclassmen know what it takes to win. They know what our expectations are. I think they’ve done a great job of leading all the newcomers by showing them the way.”

While she shows the younger players the ropes, McCarthy acknowledged she must improve certain aspects of her own game.

“I want to get better at defense,” McCarthy said. “That’s something that I didn’t really do well last year, and I really need to step up that part of my game. I can’t be a liability on the defensive side, and I’m expecting to play better there.”

Although McCarthy may need to improve her defense, scoring on offense has never been a problem for her. She broke Temple’s 27-year-old single-game scoring record last February when she scored 42 points against Charlotte. McCarthy also scored at least 20 points in several other big games, including contests with Xavier and Duquesne.

“I think it’s definitely a confidence booster,” McCarthy said, looking back the 42-point performance. “I never thought that I could do something like that, but it only makes you want to work harder because if people see that you can do that, then you don’t want to disappoint. You just want to elevate your game even more.”

“It was a great accomplishment, but I don’t really focus on it anymore,” she added. “I just want to go out and win games with the group of teammates that I have.”

Facing a tougher schedule this season, Temple plays a few games that appeal to McCarthy in particular, she said.

“I’m very excited to play against Pepperdine on Nov. 26 and UCLA on Nov. 28,” she said. “I’m from California, so Thanksgiving is actually at my house this year, and I’m excited for that.”

While McCarthy is focused on winning difficult games for the Owls, she has an even bigger goal in mind:

“If we make a statement this year, then our goal is to get more people in the stands,” McCarthy said. “The goal is also to get more people to support women’s basketball as a whole. It needs a lot more respect than it gets.”

This is the sort of attitude one can come to expect from McCarthy, as she appears more focused on the group, rather than herself.

“We’re pretty deep,” McCarthy said, “so I think we’re going be a force to be reckoned with.”

Jeffrey Janiczek can be reached at

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