Normandy Park basketball star has brought Stanford back from the dead

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Stanford, CA – January 12, 2018: Stanford Women’s Basketball wins over Washington State 70-57 at Maples Pavilion.

STANFORD, CA – January 26, 2018: Stanford Women’s Basketball defeats Arizona State, 74-50 at Maples Pavilion.

By Sue Favor
Editor of

Photos by Bob Drebin/

Brittany McPhee doesn’t like waiting.

Yet, after a stellar junior year last season and playing for USA Basketball’s Under-23 team in Japan over the summer, waiting was exactly what the Stanford senior star guard had to do. Just two games into the season last November, she injured her foot, and spent nine games on the bench watching her team struggle, going 6-3. She said sitting out was tougher than rehab.

“I was ready for the year, and when I hurt my foot…..I was mad every single game,” McPhee said. “Basketball is my outlet, so I was super mad.”

When she stepped back on to the court Dec. 21, she played like she had missed it, and she put up 17 points against Tennessee. A week later McPhee unleashed 26 points to lead her team in upsetting UCLA.

But her most eye-popping outburst came Feb. 4 in Eugene, as the Cardinal took on then-No. 6 Oregon. McPhee scored a career-high 33 points – 31 in the last two quarters – to pave the way for the 13-point upset. ESPN then named her their women’s basketball player of the week, for the second time this season.

“She really lit it up that day,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. Here’s video proof:

McPhee has also set fire to the Cardinal’s season, which wasn’t looking promising in December, as they were at a low in VanDerveer’s 32-year tenure with a 7-6 record. They are 13-4 since her return and 13-3 in conference, and could win the regular-season Pac-12 title after final games are played next weekend.

Jordan McPhee, who is McPhee’s twin sister and the leading scorer for Seattle Pacific University, traveled to Palo Alto earlier this month to spend the weekend. She said she wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Stanford take the league title and go deep into the NCAA Tournament once again this year.

“They have a great shot,” Jordan McPhee said. “They’re a great team to watch on the court. They are all really close, and they fight for each other.”

McPhee’s ascent began in earnest in the driveway of her Normandy Park home, where as a child she would compete with her sister in basketball drills. Their father, Bryce, was a star at Gonzaga University, where he played with John Stockton. Their uncle was also a Zag standout. Mother Alice played at Eastern Washington University and then professionally, in Australia. The twins had basketballs in their hands in kindergarten.

Jordan McPhee said she and her sister were lucky to have parents that taught them the game.

“We were always going to the gym together, or shooting in the backyard with our dad,” she said. “We were living in those moments.”

Brittany McPhee guided Mt. Rainier High School to back-to-back state semifinals in her last two years there, and she left the school as the program’s second-leading all-time scorer. She had wanted to play at Stanford since she was in grade school, watching players like Candice Wiggins lead the team through the NCAA Tournament.

The Cardinal offered her a scholarship, but not her sister, so they decided to attend different colleges. Being apart for the first time wasn’t easy at first.

“We struggled at first with long conversations,” Jordan McPhee said. “Now we call each other all the time, whenever we have a free second. We will share the most random stuff.”

“It’s cool how we can be so far away and stay so close.”

McPhee’s transition to Stanford was challenging, as she shared a roster with other great athletes and had to earn her playing time. The first year she averaged 3.5 points per game, and as a sophomore, she doubled that. But it was last year as a junior that she found an opportunity to step up, when teammate Karlie Samuelson missed time with a wrist injury. McPhee rose to the occasion.

She averaged 13.3 points per game in the regular season, and shone in the NCAA Tournament with a 27-point outpour to lead the Cardinal in upsetting Notre Dame. They went to their first Final Four since 2014, where they lost in the semifinals to eventual champion South Carolina.

VanDerveer said McPhee’s evolution into becoming their top player has been her own doing.

“Britt loves to score, she’s aggressive offensively, and we love that about her,” VanDerveer said. “She’s a rebounder, and she’s worked really hard on her defense. She’s worked hard on being more than a scorer, and she’s making really good plays. That basket got really big.”

McPhee has set the bar high for herself.

“When you put in work, you have to be successful,” she said. “You can’t just show up and expect things to happen. I expect consistency.”

And while McPhee isn’t pressuring herself or her teammates to make a Final Four return, she knows she has to keep working through the last two games of the regular season, in the Pac-12 Tournament in Seattle March 1-4, and hopefully into the NCAA Tournament.

“I definitely wanted to make the most of my senior year,” she said. “I have no expectations of (specific) numbers, but I have to score a lot.”

“That was my mindset going into my senior season: super-focused.”

McPhee’s cut-throat, competitive drive is well-known. She is not a big talker, but she carries a big game.

“When we would play, I was the one showing emotion and yelling,” Jordan McPhee said. “She was the one who showed no emotion.”

Off the court, McPhee is friendly and kind.

“She’s a humble person and a hard worker,” VanDerveer said. “The best thing about (her career-high scoring day) was seeing how happy everyone else was for her.”

In finishing out her college career, McPhee sticks to a one-game-at-a-time approach.

“The next game is the most important game of the season,” she said.

But however it turns out for McPhee and the Cardinal, she is likely to be drafted into the WNBA in April. She hopes to make a team, but will continue her basketball career even if she doesn’t.

“I would like to play basketball overseas,” she said.

A human biology major, McPhee hasn’t decided yet whether to apply to medical school or go into sports performance and nutrition once her basketball days are gone. But one thing is for sure: she will soon reunite with her sister.

“It’s super-weird being apart,” McPhee said.

  • Read our previous coverage from 2013 on McPhee here.
  • Read more of Sue Favor’s great basketball coverage at

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