Sophomore guard Michaela Stanfield, like many of her classmates, had an unconventional freshman experience. Unable to play for her first year, she found a community in her teammates, the seniors setting the standard for inculcating the mindset of a student athlete into newbies.
“We had a great team dynamic because the seniors were amazing last year," Stanfield said. "We would hang out together on weekends as much as possible and do team lunches. Even though we were missing out on basketball, we still got the familial aspect of being on the team, which was great."
She too hopes to also foster this sense of belonging among the freshmen in the coming years.
“Since we spend a lot of time together off the court, I think it is very important to develop relationships and trust beyond just basketball. In the future I can continue to be a vocal leader and communicator,” she said.
The pandemic was also a test of mental fortitude for Stanfield and the team.
“Last year, we focused on maximizing any opportunity to practice. Our motto was ‘Win the Day,’ as we tried to improve each day instead of focusing on what we were missing out on,'' she said.
Prior to this season, Stanfield’s last competitive game was back in Needham, Mass., as a high schooler. At the Winsor School, she played both basketball and tennis competitively, eventually choosing to focus on the former. She credits her mental strength to tennis, as the individualism it required helped her harness pressure to produce results.
Speaking on the jump to college basketball, she highlights its demands off the court.
“It’s a lot more demanding in terms of commitment," Stanfield said. "Even when you don’t have formal practice or lift, in college there’s the expectation that you’re always working on your conditioning, on your individual skills.”
Coming into this year, she wasn’t sure of what to expect.
“It’s new for me to play a game, practice, and then play another game — it’s a demanding schedule. It is tough, but this was all I was hoping for last year, so to have this opportunity [to play] is just so exciting,” she said.
Stanfield is the embodiment of a team player, stressing the importance of carrying out her role on the team. She has played in every game for the Quakers this season, often playing big minutes. So far, she is averaging 2.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, with a season-high of 10 points, which came in the Red and Blue's loss at Bucknell.
“I just want to bring energy and communication to the team while playing really hard, both defensively and offensively,” Stanfield said. “ I want to stay in my role and do whatever it takes for us to play hard and win.”
Coach Mike McLaughlin expects Stanfield to develop into an offensive asset, and while the pandemic put her growth on hold for a year, he is impressed by her improvements over the past few months.
“She’s really good when she attacks the basket, and she’s expanding her range everyday, which is evident every time she’s on court. Her basketball IQ is growing, and she’s developing well as a player,” he said. “She’s got a good work ethic and she’s invested — I think that’s how she can help grow this team.”
Having suffered six losses in a row over the past few weeks, the latest being on the road against the Stony Brook Seawolves, it is easy for an athlete to be mired in self doubt. Stanfield, however, is confident in the work that the team is investing and that results will also follow.
“We go into every practice with the same attitude, irrespective of the result of our last game," Stanfield said. "We have been improving, thanks to all the work [that] both the players and coaches have been putting in, and I know that the results will start to show that."
Despite not experiencing the highs and lows of college basketball last year, Michaela has integrated seamlessly into the team and personifies the team spirit one would see in a veteran. She understands the importance of perspective, appreciating the opportunity to give it her all for the Red and Blue this year both on and off the court.