Meggie Burgess’ freshman year of college basketball took place in Newport News, Virginia, where the Olney native was part of a Christopher Newport University team that won a conference championship and made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III tournament.
Burgess couldn’t find her way on a 25-win team, however. She sat last in minutes played and points per game, and spent more time on the bench than the court. Burgess said she wasn’t having fun and wanted more out of her college career.
Enter McDaniel College, with a new coach, new system, and an opportunity to fight for minutes. Burgess was intrigued, and transferred closer to home before the start of the 2019-20 season.
“I was sitting on the bench last year saying, ‘I hate this. I don’t know if I want to do this. I don’t know if I want to play anymore,’ ” Burgess said last week. “Coming here, it wasn’t confirmed that I would get more playing time. But just coming here and being on this team and playing well during practice, and actually getting to participate during practice, was more energizing and more motivating in itself.”
Burgess didn’t make any starts for the Green Terror this season, but she became part of first-year coach Christin Gowan’s 12-player rotation. The 6-foot-1 sophomore forward saved her best performance for the final week of McDaniel’s season — Burgess scored 13 points, a career high, and sank three 3-pointers in the Terror’s 68-48 win over Washington College on Feb. 19 at Gill Center.
Burgess grabbed three rebounds and added two assists, and on offense she shined by making five of her eight field-goal attempts.
Gowan went to six regulars as starters throughout most of the season, and three of them were seniors in Emily Metzger, Anna Mondoro, and Liv Storer. The others were young players — freshman forward Mallory Conroy made 24 starts, freshman guard Josey Klingenberg (Manchester Valley) made 15, and sophomore guard Ellie Connelly collected 13.
Conroy and Mondoro shared McDaniel’s scoring lead at 10.2 points per game, and Conroy (5-11) added 6.1 rebounds. Freshman guard Natalie Mehl finished fourth at 7.2 ppg, and Klingenberg led the Green Terror with 57 steals (2.3 per game, fourth best in the Centennial Conference).
The Terror finished 10-15 and 6-14 in the Centennial, but missed the postseason conference tournament for the fourth year in a row. Still, Gowan said she was pleased with her team’s progress during her rookie year on the Hill. And she was looking toward the future, which likely includes more of Burgess.
“Meggie has grown, I think, more than anybody else in the last couple months,” Gowan said. “For Meggie, 100%, it’s definitely the confidence. Coming from a situation at Christopher Newport where she wasn’t really in the playing rotation, and then coming here and being able to get minutes and be a contributing factor is huge.”
Burgess said the change of scenery boosted her confidence, but she was unsure of herself when she came to Westminster. Scoring four points in two games early in the season didn’t translate into consistency, and Burgess didn’t score again (one free throw) until the Captains’ NCAA tournament sectional semifinal win March 2, 2019, over Mount Saint Mary.
Burgess averaged 2.5 points per game this season, but her presence grew as the season went on. Credit some of that to the Terror for being supportive, she said.
“Having a coach that wants me to do well and having teammates that encourage me to do well, it changes the game,” Burgess said.
McDaniel’s lineup in 2020-21 figures to be an experienced one, with Mallory and Burgess in the post and Mehl, Klingenberg, and Connelly commanding the backcourt. Hannah Zajac, a junior forward, who twice hit double digits in scoring during this season and provided Gowan with minutes off the bench, should also be back.
Burgess’ switch seems to have worked out and both she and her coach are eager to see what’s next.
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“She’s such a mismatch, right? There’s not athletes like her in our conference,” Gowan said. “To be ... 6-1, with that wingspan, and be able to shoot the 3 and be so dynamic off the dribble, she brings a skill set that really nobody else in our conference has at that size. For her to see and believe it now, and getting hyped up by her teammates and saying she can be successful is huge for her.”