Imani McGee-Stafford high fives teammates after coming out in the first half of Texas' NCAA tournament win over Penn on Sunday at Comcast Center.
Imani McGee-Stafford high fives teammates after coming out in the first half of Texas' NCAA tournament win over Penn on Sunday at Comcast Center. (Evan Habeeb, USA Today Sports)

COLLEGE PARK — Maryland had defeated Army 40 minutes earlier, and Terps players were picking up notepads and pens and filtering back toward the Comcast Center court to scout their next NCAA tournament opponent.

They didn't need to watch long to grasp their formidable task in Tuesday night's second-round matchup: limiting the influence of Texas center Imani McGee-Stafford, the mobile, 6-foot-7 sophomore with the bright orange hair and impressive basketball pedigree.


The fourth-seeded Terps (25-6) could hardly miss McGee-Stafford, who is the sister of JaVale McGee of the NBA's Denver Nuggets and the daughter of former Olympian and WNBA player Pam McGee. McGee-Stafford had 20 points and 12 rebounds in 23 minutes in the fifth-seeded Longhorns' 79-61 victory over Penn in Sunday's first-round game.

"She is awesome," said Maryland freshman guard Lexie Brown, who was a teammate of McGee-Stafford's on an under-18 USA Basketball team in high school. "I know how her brain kind of works. She does like to block shots. She likes to jump for everything. I would, too, if I were that size."

McGee-Stafford is hardly shy about drawing attention to herself, as evidenced by her aggressiveness and her perpetually transitioning hair. It is currently a color that approximates the burnt-orange on her uniform.

"I'm so Longhorn my hair matches," she said Monday. "Last season I was known for having a big Afro. And in the summer I cut it off. And since I've cut it off, I've changed my hair color every month. If we make it out of this round, I'll probably have a different hair color for the rest of the season."

McGee-Stafford, who was heavily recruited out of Los Angeles before selecting Texas, averages 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

"I think I'm a much more physical player than I was in high school," she said. "And I play much harder."

She has occasionally struggled with foul trouble. In seven games this season she has picked up at least four fouls.

"Our goal is pretty much to get [McGee-Stafford] in foul trouble," Brown said. "But our 3-ball is going to be so important, because if they are worried about us [guards], then we can get the ball inside."

McGee-Stafford smiled broadly when apprised of Brown's comments.

"Well, I'm flattered that I'm a target, but I'm not really sure I'm the only thing they should be worried about," McGee-Stafford said. "It's basically going to be game of wills. With that being said, I'm going to try not to get in foul trouble. I would hope they're worried about more than me, because we have a lot of players that can do a lot of things."

Texas (22-11) led the Big 12 in rebounding margin this seaon (plus-11.6), but has struggled with turnovers.

Maryland is hardly a small team. The Terps led the Atlantic Coast Conference in rebounding margin at plus-11.8. But the Terps have no starter of McGee-Stafford's size.

"I mean, they're a big, huge team compared to us," said Maryland center Alicia DeVaughn, who is about 6-foot-4. "We just can't fall mentally for that. We've just got to come out and play and be physical."