USA TODAY Sports Images
When Erica McCall was drafted April 13 in the second round, No. 17 overall, by the Indiana Fever the moment was further proof of the hard-earned improvement of the former Stanford senior.
McCall's career totals at Stanford of 1,376 points, 976 rebounds and 200 blocks make her one of six players in Pac-12 history with 1,350/950/200. And she put those numbers together while completing a degree in psychology.
Now basketball is her profession, which is welcome change for McCall, who former head coach Tara VanDerveer has praised on a number of occasions for her passion for the sport.
"I don't have to worry about any papers or assignments," she laughed. "That's one big thing I'm excited about. I get to play out my dream with the best players in the world. And I'm excited to become an even better basketball player.
"I can see my improvement increase even faster. That's exciting to even think about. I'm ready to get to work in Indiana and have some fun."
McCall arrived Thursday in Indianapolis and training camp started yesterday.
— Indiana Fever (@IndianaFever) April 23, 2017
When McCall arrived at Stanford she was a freshman on a team that reached the Final Four behind the undeniable force of Chiney Ogwumike. Heralded as the No. 11 overall recruit coming out of high school, McCall was an energetic force on defense and the boards, which helped her carve out a role while her offensive game developed.
In her final three seasons at Stanford, the Cardinal reached the Sweet 16, Elite Eight and Final Four, respectively. And as the team progressed deeper into the tournament each season, the Cardinal coaches asked more of McCall as a leader on and off the court.
By her senior year she was a captain with a more versatile skill set that reflected the hours she put in the gym. One of the more easily noticeable examples was that McCall didn't attempt a three until the final few weeks of her junior season, and from then on she was able to pull defenders with her to the perimeter.
Off the court the 2016-2017 Cardinal came together through team bonding and leadership workshops, which was a major factor in producing the program's 13th trip to the Final Four. While Stanford fell to South Carolina in the national semifinal, the Cardinal were the only team to reach that stage without a first, second or third team All American on the roster.
The group's chemistry was "amazing," McCall said.
"I think that's why we won some big games when we were down," she said. "That connection helped us stay together and helped push each other to another level. We had some amazing wins that I'll never forget."
Playing professionally has been a dream for McCall since she was in the sixth grade, but she said it became more of a reality toward the middle of her junior campaign.
"I was doing well and I knew that could become a reality for me," she said. "As senior year approached, and I went through it, I had scouts come to practices and games. And here I am now. But really if I think about it all the way from sixth grade I never would have thought I'd be in the situation I am now."
McCall won't be the only former Cardinal in Indianapolis. She will be joined by Jeanette Pohlen-Mavunga, who didn't take long to show her approval of the reunion.
McCall has several connections to the former Stanford guard. The first was watching the then senior Pohlen and the Cardinal fall in a heart-breaker to Texas A&M in the 2011 Final Four. Since then Pholen married the brother of one of McCall's friends, Julian Mavunga.
"It will be a lot of fun to be with her again," McCall said. "I've met her on a few occasions and I know she's a great person."
McCall also is planning for further in the future as she prepares for her first WNBA season. She and her agent are looking at possible playing destinations overseas -- South Korea, Israel, Italy and Spain are front runners -- and she already has a plan for her next career.
After earning an MBA she will return to her hometown of Bakersfield.
"I want to start my own non-profit," she said. "And I would really like to re-start the YMCA here. I have big goals of doing that, and I know it will be tough, but I think with what I learned at Stanford and the connections I built will help me move forward with that process.
"I'm ready for the journey."