Kelsey Plum was born in San Diego, but based on her comments about Washington State, she has learned plenty about the Huskies-Cougars rivalry during her historic tenure with the UW women’s basketball team. And she let 710 ESPN Seattle’s resident Cougars fanatic, Jim Moore, hear all about it.
“Cougs are bold,” Plum told “Danny, Dave and Moore” Tuesday. “I went to Applebee’s yesterday and I had a guy ask me to take a picture; he’s wearing a Cougs shirt. What makes you think that I’d take a picture with you, wearing that shirt? You guys are sick. Like, what?”
Plum, already the Pac-12’s all-time leading scorer, is much more than just a Cougs trash-talker. The senior point guard is also on a path to becoming the most prolific scorer in women’s college basketball history and is the key to one of the greatest stretches ever for UW basketball. After driving the Huskies to a surprise Final Four in 2016, Plum has led UW to a 24-3 record in 2017, a No. 9 ranking and the program’s first-ever sellout crowd.
When UW lost that game, 72-68 to then-No. 10 Stanford last month, Plum, who scored 44 points, took the microphone and apologized to the crowd.
“I kind of felt responsibility. Everyone came to watch us play like that, you got to win it,” she said. “We let people down a little bit and I know it was a fun game and I know that’s not necessarily exactly how it was, that’s just how it felt.”
Most who watched the game, though, saw more than a few phantom calls that Plum had trouble herself holding back on.
“Gosh, that was almost like a come-to-Jesus moment. I had to figure out a way not to get lit on fire,” Plum said. “I thought that really swung the game.”
With four regular-season games to play, Plum is 152 points away from tying Jackie Stiles’ all-time NCAA Division I scoring record of 3,393 points. And while Stiles was honored earlier this week with a statue at Missouri State University, where she played from 1998-2001, Plum won’t be looking for anything like that.
“It is an honor and the more the season goes on, the more (the record is) brought up and I don’t really have a choice to notice it. But it’s just funny because I know that Jackie, they presented her with a statue in front of their gym not too long ago. And I saw it and I called Coach and I was like, if you think that I’ll come back to the gym with my statue outside, you’re crazy,” she said. “This record, as much as it is an individual, there are so many moving parts to it. You have to think about every teammate, trainer, coach that I’ve had since I was in fourth grade. …
“It’s not about me, so I feel kind of a sense of like, as much as this record is an individual one, a village won this – if it gets broken.”
But while she remains humble about her scoring, that isn’t the case for her feelings about WSU. Her teams went 5-3 against the Cougars during her career, with UW winning both matchups this season by more than 30 points. She was helped by the attendance of another supporter with her at WSU’s Beasley Coliseum this season.
“My mom this past year was like, ‘I’ve never been to Pullman and I want to go,'” Plum recalled. “And I’m like, ‘Mom there’s a reason that you’ve never been. Don’t. Don’t start now. And she got there and she goes, ‘What am I doing? There’s nothing to do here.’ I was like, ‘I told ya.’ But, hey, that’s on her.”
More highlights from the conversation:
Why she chose basketball over volleyball, her family’s sport of choice: “There’s nothing that I don’t like about it. I feel like when you hit it over you just can’t get it back, you just can’t control it in the same way. And I just didn’t like the fact that you couldn’t hit anybody, or anything like that.”
On being compared to Houston Rockets star James Harden: “That was so cool. I saw that on Twitter and that definitely made my day, it went viral. It was awesome. Somebody made a video about it and I was very, very amazed at the comparisons and how actually close they were. I’ve actually watched a lot of film on him but to be put side by side on some of the moves he does, is an unreal feeling and for him to recognize it and say something back, that’s pretty awesome.”
Her dream job? “I’ve always said I was gonna play in the WNBA, but after that, I wanted to be a sports broadcaster for ESPN. So my dream job would be to sit on the set and just talk trash pre and postgame pretty much about anything. That would be the dream job.”
On making 141 free throws in a row at practice and why she didn’t make No. 142: “(Coach) brought the drumline down, the band practices in one of the other gyms at night and I’m on like 135, 136, and he brings them down and right before I start shooting, the drumline, like six guys – boom, boom, boom, boom. I’m laughing so hard, it wasn’t the drums, it was me laughing at the drums and everyone else laughing that, I missed.”
Playing H-O-R-S-E with her dad: “He stopped playing me when I was about 13, 14 because we’d play for who’s gonna pick up the dog poop. And I’d lose every time until about 13, 14, where I just decided, you know what, I’m done. So after then, I haven’t picked up dog poop since.”
On projections that she’ll go No. 3 in the WNBA draft: “It’s crazy, right? I feel like I’ve got to pinch myself sometimes and we’re almost probably a month-and-a-half, two months away. But for now, just trying to stay in the moment. This is what matters, this is what I work for and there’s a lot left to play for this season, so I’m not really worried about that one yet.”