Alta basketball standout Brinlee McRae ranks second in Utah for points per gameMar 24, 2021 02:59PM ● By Tavia Dutson
Brinlee McRae shoots a foul shot in a 2020 Alta Hawks basketball game. (Photo courtesy Jeff Stephenson)
By Tavia Dutson | [email protected]
The Alta women’s basketball team is up and running after a two-week break due to three positive COVID-19 tests within the organization. Going two weeks without basketball practice turned out to be more difficult than the team expected. Although the girls missed playing basketball, they were more excited just to see each other again.
“We get back to campus and I’m hearing all these laughs and giggles in the team room, it has never been this loud,” said head coach Elizabeth Gustafson.
This season has shown them how much it means just to be able to connect with teammates, because they never know when the pandemic will keep them on the sidelines.
“Everyone has bought in and is just trying to do what they need to. They understand that all these experiences can be taken away,” Gustafson said.
After the two-week hiatus, the Lady Hawks are glad to be together to work on their most important team goal—finding joy.
“We are just trying to have a lot of fun this season. That’s what we came into it to do,” said junior Brinlee McRae.
With their lighthearted approach to the season, the Lady Hawks don’t get too caught up in the stats. An emphasis on team unity has proved to be more important.
“I feel like we’re doing better than last season. I think our record is better,” said McRae before asking Gustafson, “Is it?”
“I don’t know the record either. We don’t celebrate that kind of stuff, we try to just recognize the hustle,” Gustafson replied.
In fact, coach Gustafson hadn’t even known that McRae is currently ranked second in the state in points per game. Even though it was news to her, she was not at all surprised.
McRae, a Sandy native, made the decision to attend Hillcrest High her freshman year to participate in the rigorous academic opportunities provided there. After a year, she returned to Alta, wanting to see familiar faces.
“Her life, her friends, her community—it’s here,” Gustafson said.
After her transfer, McRae was cleared to play in sub-varsity competition. After a sophomore season spent dominating in JV games, McRae exploded onto the high school scene this year.
“That’s why right now as a junior everyone is so shocked. No one knew she even existed, but she was putting up those same stats last year in JV. She’s always been this competitive,” Gustafson said.
McRae admits that having to sit out in those varsity games was tough, but she learned patience. She was able to create bonds with her JV teammates that have translated to a well-rounded 2020-21 team.
“It was so frustrating. Having to sit there knowing what I could do, just wanting to be in there, but I grew so much as a player,” McRae said.
After a unique start to her high school basketball career, McRae is finally able to show everyone what she is capable of. McRae’s current points per game of 22.5 is second only to Judge Memorial standout Teya Sidberry.
McRae is still getting used to this spotlight. Being a state leader in a points per game stat can take emphasis away from team play and incentivize players to take the ball to the basket every time.
“I put a little more pressure on myself. Every game, I want to get to that average. I don’t want to come out until I hit that, but I try not to focus on it too much,” McRae said.
At the end of the day, McRae tries to zone in on her two goals: have fun and work hard. The two-week hiatus provided a reminder to enjoy the process and not get too caught up in statistics and state leader boards.
“It’s just numbers,” McRae said. “You just got to play for the team.”