SALT LAKE CITY — Megan Huff would have been perfectly happy to remain a sidekick.
But injuries and eligibility issues changed what Utah had planned when it came to personnel, but that unexpected challenge had turned out to be an opportunity for Huff.
“I was telling someone yesterday that last year, she was Robin to Batman,” said Utah head coach Lynne Roberts. “And this year, she is Batman.”
Even though Huff was a Pac-12 All-Conference first-team forward last year, she would likely blush at that description. If she is the team’s superhero, she’d be among the most self-effacing to ever don a cape.
“She is such a talent and anyone who watches us play can see that,” Roberts said. “She isn’t trying to do too much, which is a positive. She started off the game against BYU a little shaky, I think she started 0 for 6 to start the game but then went 10 for 13 in the second half, so that is just a testament to her toughness and talent. She is not a grab you by the shirt type of leader that is going to mandate that you fall in line, but she is going to work her tail off and compete and lead in that way."
Huff had a career night against BYU last weekend with 28 points and 8 rebounds, and it earned the Washington native her first Pac-12 Player of the Week award. Her second-half effort helped the Utes stay undefeated and showed her resilience in adapting her expectations to what the Utes ended up needing this season.
“Coming into the year, I thought we would have two traditional centers,” Roberts said. “We lost We lost (Maurane Corbin) to an ACL in September, and then the freshman post player from Spain that we signed didn’t get into school yet, so that was 6-5 and 6-4 gone. So when we lost those (players) we kind of had to regroup to see what we should do defensively.”
The responsibility of guarding the paint fell to 6-foot-3 Huff and 6-foot-2 freshman Dre’Una Edwards and, judging from the preseason, they’ve embraced the challenge.
“I think last year we had Potter to lean on,” said redshirt freshman Dru Gylten, who won the Freshman Player of the Week honors to make it a Utah sweep. “Just her height, her size, and she always had a presence. And this year, we’re obviously undersized, compared to last year’s team. But I think Huff has really stepped it up. I mean, she’s not as tall as Potter, but she is so athletic and understands the sport of basketball.” According to her teammates, what really makes her a leader isn’t her fiery speeches, it’s her work ethic and the tenacity she brings to every second of every game.
“She does the little things — boxing out, hustling on offense, and I think that’s really helped this year, just being an overall leader on the court,” Gylten said. “Those kinds of things get us fired up. She gets a big rebound, and we’re ready to run our offense.”
Huff and Utah’s other seniors have embraced Utah’s freshmen, as well as graduate transfer Sarah Porter, and created the kind of chemistry that makes coaching much easier.
“She is not a grab-you-by-the-shirt type of leader that is going to mandate that you fall into line,” Roberts said. “But she is going to work her tail off and compete and lead in that way.”
Huff’s efforts have paid off as she ranks in the top-five in the league in scoring (20.6), rebounding (9.3), free throw percentage (.889) and blocks (13). She also ranks in the top-25 nationally in points per game and 3-point percentage (.486).Comment on this story
Huff and the Utes take on their third in-state rival in three weeks when Weber State visits the Huntsman Center Saturday at 2 p.m. The first 200 fans to arrive receive a free 20x20 Utah print.
Despite being undefeated, the Utes are far from complacent.
“Our goal was not to start 8-0 and win some Pac-12 awards,” Roberts said. “Our goal was to win some games in the Pac-12 that we haven’t won in the past few years. …We aren’t relaxing because I do think we have the potential to be a great team, but that will be proven when it is all said and done in March.”