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Dominique McBryde’s ‘old man’s game’ a big boost to Arizona’s frontcourt

Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

Dominique McBryde may not be the quickest or tallest player on the court, but you better not take her lightly.

You’ll pay if you do.

“My analogy is she’s got an old man’s game,” said Arizona head coach Adia Barnes. “You know, the old man who looks like he’s OK, then he comes in and busts you out for 20 (points) and 20 (rebounds). It’ll be a slow move, but then she’ll just score on you. She’s talented, she can shoot the 3, she can put the ball on the floor, she’s got good moves.”

McBryde laughed when she was told she plays like an old man, but believes it’s an apt description.

“I would say very patient,” the 6-foot-2 forward described her game. “I think that’s why it’s very old-man like. I definitely like to read what’s best, whether that’s me scoring or whether that’s the open shot. I like to take my time.”

Which is good, because McBryde’s patience was tested last year when the ex-Purdue Boilermaker sat out the entire season due to NCAA transfer rules.

McBryde had to watch as Arizona’s frontcourt, which lacked depth and size, got bullied game after game. The Wildcats went 6-24, finishing with the worst rebounding margin and field-goal percentage in the Pac-12.

“I don’t think I had ever missed a game in my life, so the first exhibition game was when it really dug deep for me and I even shed a few tears,” she said. “It was definitely hard. It was a big transition.”

But now that McBryde is eligible and the Wildcats added a bevy of talent around her — namely McDonald’s All-American forward Cate Reese and Washington transfer Aarion McDonald — they expect their days of being the Pac-12’s punching bag to end sooner rather than later.

“I think we can definitely make some noise this year,” McBryde said. “I think it’s very realistic for us to beat teams that people aren’t expecting us to beat. The sky is the limit for us. We’re only getting started. We have a young group coming in and a lot of talent coming in in the future, so we’re excited to see where this program can go.”

McBryde is capable of playing both frontcourt spots, and will likely start alongside Reese, creating an exciting pairing.

Barnes described Reese, a 6-foot-2 Texan who averaged 30.6 points and 15.3 rebounds last year at Cypress Woods High, as a “fierce competitor” and McBryde said she is meshing well with the highly-touted freshman.

“She has huge potential and a bright future ahead of her,” McBryde said. “We play really well so far and read each other very well. She’s a smart player and so I do well feeding off that.”

McBryde was a Big Ten Honorable Mention as a sophomore at Purdue, averaging 6.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, logging the seventh-best field-goal percentage in the conference (53.8).

The redshirt junior only attempted seven 3s in two seasons with the Boilermakers, but she characterizes herself as a stretch 4 and used her transfer year to polish her jumper.

“It was really my bread and butter in high school ... and something I shied away from my first two years,” McBryde said. “(Assistant) coach Morgan (Valley) helped me tremendously with that and I’ve seen a ton of improvement, and I’m looking forward to showing that off.”

Arizona was the second-worst 3-point shooting team in the Pac-12 last season, so McBryde believes her presence on the perimeter will open up the floor for her teammates, leading to a more productive offense.

McBryde’s smooth and savvy post game will undoubtedly help, too.

“She’ll be one of our best post players by far,” Barnes said. “She’s so versatile and right now she’s our best post presence inside. She’s our best shooter on the outside of our posts, but she’s our person at getting a bucket on the block.”

Barnes also values McBryde’s pedigree and believes she can help establish the winning culture that Barnes has been yearning to implement since she took over the program in 2016-17. McBryde played in the NCAA Tournament both years at Purdue, a stage the Wildcats have not reached since 2005.

“She brings leadership because she’s won in a program,” Barnes said.

In the end, Barnes thinks McBryde can be an All-Pac-12 player, extremely high praise considering the depth of the conference this year.

“That’s how highly I think of her,” Barnes said.

An Indiana native, McBryde says the style of play in the Pac-12 is “completely different” than that of the Big Ten. The Pac-12 is less physical, but more competitive and features a free-flowing, uptempo brand of basketball.

“Unlike the Big Ten where it’s a very old style of basketball, Midwest-style basketball that people grew up on for years,” McBryde said. “The Pac-12 is like that new wave of basketball.”

Yet McBryde, old man’s game and all, is confident she will fit right in.

“It definitely helped me a lot at Purdue, but here I think I’ve adjusted well,” she said. “I think it is a faster game, but I think it does help to take a few extra steps and I think that will help me excel.”