| March 22, 2018

W. Basketball: From top performer to team leader

Some athletes who take the time to find their sport, others know exactly what they want from the start. Geraldine McCorkell said although she experimented with other sports, she always came back to basketball.   

“I have just always loved it,” McCorkell said. “I have tried a few other sports, but basketball is always one I turn back to. I think the team chemistry and like being with your friends all the time is a lot of fun.”

McCorkell said she started playing basketball when she was eight years old. She said she played for her state and won several titles before she began to pursue basketball as her passion.

“I started getting more serious about it with my club as I was growing up,” McCorkell said.

Yet she said it wasn’t until her teenage years that she fully realized she wanted to continue playing at a collegiate level.

“I slowly figured it out,” McCorkell said. “When I was about 16 or 17, I first heard about it and then the idea kind of got better and better as it went.”

Afterward, McCorkell said she began taking the necessary steps for recruitment that ultimately led her to Idaho.

“I knew that I wanted to go to college,” McCorkell said. “So we kind of got in contact with a few people and I was doing like camps to help get recruited and Idaho started talking to me.”

A Melbourne, Australia, native McCorkell said she idealized coming to America to play basketball.

“America was always kind of like the dream because like all the movies and stuff you see and I just thought it would be fun,” she said.

McCorkell said she was drawn to Idaho becuase of the family atmosphere she felt in the team.

“Everyone here was a lot closer than other places in terms of friendship I thought that was a major benefit of coming here,” she said.

Idaho head coach Jon Newlee said he knew she could play well, but wanted her as part of the Idaho program for more than her athletic abilities.

“She has such a great attitude,” Newlee said. “You know, she is going to come in, she is going to work hard. She is very quiet, so you wonder what she is thinking sometimes since she doesn’t say a whole lot but again, great attitude and great work ethic.”

But moving across the world to play didn’t come without adjustments. McCorkell said it took some time but having other Australians on the team as support helped make the transition easier.

“It took a little bit of getting used to,” McCorkell said. “Last year, I had Tayla and Renae, who are also from Australia, so it was nice that they had already been in the states for a couple of years so they could like help me out here and there.”

Beyond that, McCorkell said it was the overall support she relied on from those around her that got her through.

“It is a lot more serious here,” she said. “There are a few rule changes here and they weren’t very hard to get used to, but I think basketball is basketball. It is more intense in America I think because of how much is on the line, like you want to win.”

Despite the increase in intensity, McCorkell said she had the right mindset coming in to handle it.

“My mindset coming in was just work hard and see where that takes me,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting to play a lot so I was like, ‘Just get used to it and see where that takes you’.”

It took her to an average of seven points per game in an average 15 minutes of play. She said she was surprised by her initial success on the team but considered it the benefit of hard work paying off.

“I didn’t think I was going to get that much playing time, but I ended up playing a little bit,” McCorkell said. “I was happy that I was and I think it was a good reward for hard work and I just rolled with it from there.”

Heading into her senior season, McCorkell said she is starting to learn more of her role as a team leader and is learning by example.

“I am starting to learn a bit more about the leadership role just following from Karlee (Wilson) and like what she does,” she said. “I think I need to step it up a bit more, but I think that will come.”

Newlee echoed McCorkell’s sentiments, and said that the team will need her to step up as a leader in her senior year.

“We lose Karlee Wilson, who is our heart and soul, our real leader out there on the floor and off and we are looking for (McCorkell) to step up and be more vocal as a senior and really take ownership of the leadership role,” Newlee said.

McCorkell said she believes she has slowly started to feel more comfortable with her coaches and team.

“I was really shy my first year,” she said. “But (the coaches) have become so supportive and they are always there. I mean I see them every day, so they are like family.”

Newlee said although she has always been quiet, McCorkell is a great person to be around and have as a Vandal.

“I just have really, really enjoyed coaching her because of her work ethic and her attitude. It’s been great,” Newlee said. “She has a good sense of humor, just as coaches we don’t see it as much, I’m sure the players do. She is just really pleasant to be around as well, just a really great person.”

As she has come out of her shell more in the past few years, McCorkell said she has also begun to feel more confident in herself as a leader.

McCorkell said she sees basketball in her future beyond Idaho. She said she knows she wants to play abroad, but is undecided about the exact destination.   

“I think I want to play in Europe,” she said. “Hopefully, I can get a contract over there or I might head home to play in leagues … but I am not completely sure yet. Right now at the moment, because it keeps going back and forward, I think I want to play in Europe.”

Newlee said he has enjoyed his time coaching her and hopes to find more like her for the Vandal program.

“Really, she has just been one of the hardest working players we have had here and again,” he said. “She is just a lot of fun to coach and be around and those are the kind of kids you know I want in this program.”

Meredith Spelbring can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu

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