Growing up playing two sports presented a difficult choice for Penn women’s basketball freshman Michaela Stanfield as she entered her freshman year of high school.
The Needham, Mass. native had played both tennis and basketball at a highly competitive level. When it came down to it, Stanfield knew that basketball was her passion, and that she would have to give up tennis.
“Growing up, I knew I could play tennis in college, but I had to decide between the two,” Stanfield said. “I loved the team aspect of basketball and the shared goals of competing for championships with your teammates.”
Stanfield, currently wrapping up her first semester at Penn, is looking to do whatever possible to get ready for her opportunity to contribute for the Quakers.
Stanfield considers herself a team-first player above all, despite scoring over 1,500 points in high school. She is willing to do whatever is needed to help the Red and Blue win, presumably with that opportunity being when she is a sophomore due to the Ivy League’s cancellation of all winter sports. She has been using this year to accelerate the typical incoming-freshman adjustment period.
“The biggest thing the coaches have talked to me about is the college pace,” Stanfield said. “I have played a few times with the girls, and they just play a lot faster. You have to get your shot off quicker, you have to be sharper with your skills, and you have to be in the best shape of your life.”
Stanfield has spent some time in Philadelphia with a teammate, but has spent much of the semester at home. Her teammates and coaches have been diligent in making sure the freshmen accommodate to the college level.
“The seniors have been really good at helping us with defense and getting some fundamentals down,” Stanfield said. “We do a virtual lift three days a week, and it’s been helpful to get some one-on-one coaching because I think we have all been missing that."
While Stanfield wasn’t taken by surprise by the Ivy League’s cancellation, she was disappointed nonetheless to hear she wouldn’t be able to play as a freshman. However, the team has taken on a positive mindset about the situation overall. Winning the Ivy League Championship and making it past the first round of the NCAA Tournament is a goal of the entire freshman class.
“I was obviously really sad because I’ve dreamed of my freshman year and finally getting able to play college basketball,” Stanfield said. “But the biggest thing we’re focusing on is staying mentally ready for whenever we are able to practice again and get inside the Palestra.”
At 6-foot-0, Stanfield has great length, but has worked to use her natural ability to her advantage and add versatility to her game.
“Growing up I was on the taller side but I never played in the post,” Stanfield said. “I have always worked on my ball handling and shooting so I can use my length to get to the hoop, be active defensively, and run the floor.”
Growing up a Boston Celtics fan, Stanfield has modeled her game after some talented players she has seen in recent years while watching her favorite team play. Seeing aspects of her game translate to the highest level has been good motivation to continue improving.
“I love Jayson Tatum and Tyler Herro’s game,” Stanfield said. “I think especially during this period where we’re doing a lot of individual workouts, I have worked on developing their ability to get their shot off quickly and create for themselves.”
Aside from watching these talented young players play, Stanfield credits her history with tennis in helping with a number of aspects of her game as a basketball player today. And the lessons learned mentally are equally as important as the ones learned physically.
“The footwork I learned playing tennis growing up stuck with me, especially with being agile,” Stanfield said. “When you’re playing tennis it’s really easy to get into your own head, but that has really given me a next-play mentality in basketball which has stuck with me.”
Looking back, choosing basketball over tennis was a tough decision for Stanfield, but one that has certainly seemed to pay dividends in the long-run.