Erica McCall spent part of her summer learning how to be a leader. She spent the rest of it working on a mid-range jumper. The combination has made the Stanford junior one of the best women's basketball players in the Pac-12 Conference, and, perhaps, the country.
McCall and the 11th-ranked Cardinal (24-6) open play at the Pac-12 Tournament in Seattle on Friday, meeting Washington (21-9), a 67-51 winner over Colorado (7-23), at 8:30 p.m.
McCall learned leadership skills as a co-captain of Team USA's World University Games Team, which won a gold medal in Gwangju, South Korea last July.
Her U.S. teammates included Oregon State's Sydney Weise, Cal's Courtney Range, UCLA's Jordin Canada and Arizona State's Katie Jempen. The Americans beat Canada, which featured Oregon State's Ruth Hamblin, in the championship game.
McCall averaged 15.2 points and 8.5 rebounds in the six games, and led the U.S. with 11 blocked shots. She missed her only 3-point try.
Over the past two weeks, McCall has assumed a bigger role in the offense. Against the two Oregon schools, he unveiled a deadly 3-point shot that helped her earn both the National Player of the Week and Pac-12 Player of the Week honors.
McCall also earned all-conference honors, both on the all-Pac-12 team and the all-defense team. She was joined by junior Lili Thompson, named to her second straight all-Pac-12 team, and voted Pac-12 All-Defensive honorable mention.
Karlie Samuelson received an All-Pac-12 honorable mention nod. Kaylee Johnson was a Pac-12 All-Defensive honorable mention pick and Marta Sniezek was a Pac-12 All-Freshman honorable mention.
McCall spent time with her father, Cal State Bakersfield women's coach Greg McCall, working on her shot and then developed it by practicing with and against the Roadrunners over the summer.
"I shot a lot both inside and outside," McCall said. "I also worked a lot on the pick and roll stuff and popping out. I'm happy to see the results late in the season."
Continually adding to her repertoire has given McCall a lot of confidence and made her a potent weapon in the Cardinal offense.
"If she's hitting perimeter shots like that, she's the best player in the league," Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. "You didn't need to guard her outside before. We've created a monster. She's incredible."
McCall matched her career-high with 25 points and had a career-best 18 rebounds in Stanford's 69-42 win over the Ducks on Sunday.
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer has seen a tremendous growth with McCall, who averages 14.1 points and 9.4 rebounds a game. She has recorded 15 of her 17 career double-doubles this season and ranks 14th nationally.
McCall has blocked 60 shots this season. Jayne Appel, Chiney Ogwumike and Joslyn Tinkle are the only other Stanford players to have as many in a single year.
"Erica has turned a big corner in her game," VanDerveer said. "The 3-point shot adds a new dimension. She's playing great and has been a consistent scorer and rebounder."
Even opposing coaches notice how valuable a confident McCall can be for her teammates.
"She gave them confidence from the beginning and it rubbed off on them," Oregon State Scott Rueck said after watching McCall score 25 points in Stanford's 76-54 win over the Beavers last week.
"She definitely hit another level but she's been playing well lately," Hamblin said.
Thompson, who missed both games to attend memorial services for her grandfather in Michigan, leads the team with a 14.4 scoring average.
Thompson has scored 20-plus seven times this season, including in wins against Washington and Washington State when she averaged 28.5 points per game and shot 63 percent from the field (22-of-35) and 71 percent from the 3-point line (10-of-14). Thompson scored 41 percent of Stanford's points (57) and was named both espnW National Player of the Week and Pac-12 Player of the Week for her efforts.
Samuelson is 62-of-137 from behind the arc this season and is fifth in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage (.453). A career 40.7 percent 3-point shooter, Samuelson has made 135 from deep in her career.
The Cardinal is 37-3 all-time at the Pac-12 Tournament. It has won 11 of the 14 titles, including last year, and is 13-0 all-time in the quarterfinals, 13-1 in the semifinals and 11-2 in the finals.
The fourth-seeded Stanford enters the tournament with its lowest seed ever. Prior to last season, the Cardinal had been the top seed of the event and last year won the championship as the No. 3 seed.
The No. 4 seed is 11-14 all-time at the Pac-12 Tournament. The breakdown: 8-5 against the No. 5 seed and 1-0 against the No. 12 seed.
The Cardinal is 4-1 all-time against the No. 5 seed with its only loss coming to USC in the 2014 semifinals, 72-68. Stanford has never played a No. 12.
Brittany McPhee has made 19 of her last 45 attempts from 3-point range (.422) after starting her career 9-of-48 (.188) in her first 37 career games.
Kaylee Johnson has come on strong in Stanford's last 22 games, averaging 7.4 points on 53.8 percent shooting (64-of-119) to go along with 7.4 rebounds.
Sniezek is averaging 4.0 assists in Stanford's last 10 games with a 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio. In the first 20 games of the year, the freshman was handing out 1.8 assists and owned an assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.9.