I know what you're thinking.
A big girl that plays basketball getting dubbed the nickname Shaq is not exactly unpredictable. For Janelle McCarvile, however, the on-the-court alias was not simply inherited. In college, her ability to overpower her opponents as well as display uncanny agility at her size lended itself to the common comparison.
Following in Shaq's example of shattering backboards at LSU, McCarville made a name for herself shattering records at the University of Minnesota, helping to lead a struggling the big ten program team to their first Final Four in school history in 2004. She made her teammates better, something that Shaq has always said is the true measure of a great player. Add that to the fact that perhaps even bigger than her game was her personality, and Shaq's size 22 shoe figuratively fits.
But when we talk about the next level, a divide emblematic of the difference between the men and women‘s game, exposed the comparison’s folly.
For Shaq, the transition to the NBA was simple. He stepped off the college campus of LSU, and onto the hardwood floor without losing his footing. His strength and athletic ability made him not simply NBA ready, but destined for stardom. The qualities that have always made Shaq literally stand out amongst his fellow athletes made him into a standout player. When Janelle McCarville was drafted No. 1 by the Charlotte Sting, her entire world changed. She soon realized that expectations, as well as those shoes were not so easy to fill.
McCarville struggled during her rookie season. Dealing with the rigors of a WNBA season for the first time she was plagued by injuries and averaged just 1.8 points per game. Many questioned if she would ever make her presence felt. Others questioned her skill set and wondered if her size rendered her to slow to keep up with a bigger and quicker league. In one year the female Shaq turned into the female Kwame Brown.
But as Shaq needed L.A to win big, Mccarville needed a move to a big city to resurrect her career. In 2007, after the Charlotte Sting franchise folded, McCarville was picked up by the New York Liberty in the dispersal draft. Not only did she transform her career but she transformed her physique.
Playing under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden was a much leaner McCarville, one that now possessed the quickness that had previously averted her. She went on to average 10.4 points in her first season in New York, and has improved significantly since then. Last season she led her team to the Eastern Conference Finals and averaged a career high 13.4 points during the regular season. Contrary to the saying that numbers don't lie, these statistics fail to measure the impact McCarville has on the game. The Liberty have five post players in their rotation, so her minutes are usually low but efficient.
With new assistant head coach Anne Donovan, who helped superstar Lauren Jackson reach elite status on her side, McCarville, if featured more, could thrive. She must demand more touches. The Liberty are a team so balanced that often times she gets lost in the shuffle. An example came in the team's opening night loss against the Connecticut Sun on Sunday, in which McCarville shot just 3-5 and scored 10 points in just 27 minutes. Nevertheless, after reaching the ECF last year, the Liberty has a championship on her mind.
And if LeBron doesn’t come to New York by the end of next year, it will be up to McCarville to bring a championship to the passionate basketball fans at Madison Square Garden.