Mir McLean, the multi-talented basketball star who played at Roland Park, found numerous ways to help the Reds at both ends of the court the past four years. No matter what they needed, McLean did it.
McLean averaged 21.3 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists last year at Roland Park as the school made it to the IAAM A Conference final four. She’s first in school history in scoring and rebounding. Plus, McLean was selected as the Gatorade Maryland Player of the Year this past season.
Now, the 5-foot-11 McLean faces a whole new challenge at a whole new level. McLean will begin her college career at Connecticut, which has been a powerhouse in women’s basketball for years under head coach Geno Auriemma. UConn was scheduled to begin its season against Quinnipiac Nov. 28, but the team’s first four games were canceled due to a staffer testing positive for COVID-19.
When asked if her early preseason work with the Huskies has been a bit of a change, McLean paused a bit in a recent talk.
“It hasn’t been a huge adjustment, but it has been an adjustment,” she said. “The game of basketball is still the same … and having to pay attention to every little thing, and focusing more on the little details instead of the big picture.”
McLean said that getting used to a new program is a challenge mentally, but she doesn’t feel any extra pressure.
“It’s actually been fun,” McLean said. “It’s made me a better player. I’m excited.”
The biggest adjustment might be playing time. McLean played most of the game in high school, but that’s not going to happen this season. Three starters return for UConn, which added a big freshman class as well. Top recruit Paige Bueckers headlines the class.
McLean said she’ll play at the three or four. Auriemma, in a recent video conference with the local media, said McLean is learning her way.
“Mir slides in there and surprises you every once in a while,” he said. “[The freshman class] is all getting better.”
Auriemma said with three starters back and such a strong freshman class, first-year players might have a tough time cracking the starting lineup. But if McLean starts to do what she did at Roland Park, it won’t be long before she finds some minutes and gets a bit of notice. She had the ability to control the ball, drive the lane, get to the line and come up with some big rebounds for the Reds.
McLean said she’s learning and hearing a lot from Auriemma during her first year. She’s getting used to playing on the perimeter at the college level, from adjusting to her team’s plays to knowing every spot.
“He’s very wise. He’s really intelligent, and we do want to push hard,” McLean said of Auriemma. “He kind of has a way of explaining it to you before raising his voice.”
She said her goals as a freshman at UConn include working on setting good screens as well as being vocal and a tough defender. McLean sees herself coming off the bench, so that will take some pressure off once the season gets going. UConn’s first game is now scheduled for Dec. 15 against Butler.
“I just want to put myself and my teammates in a position to win,” she said. “I’ll listen to Coach and just [be] putting in the max time and effort.”
After being such a star in high school and often carrying the Reds, McLean will likely be doing a lot of watching and learning. But plenty of freshman who did everything high school sit a lot in the early days of their college career, especially to learn the ways of the team and the system. The Huskies have a strong system, and it’s tough to break into their starting lineup.
Still, McLean certainly showed she belongs at a program like UConn. She was the 25th-ranked recruit in her class last season, according to ESPN. She was also a 2020 McDonald’s All-American, a 2020 Jordan Brand Classic All-American and a 2019 USA TODAY first-team pick in Maryland.
She’ll also be busy in the classroom with a tough slate of work. McLean’s major will be Arabic and Islamic civilization, and then she hopes to work at an agency that benefits those causes.
For now, though, she’s focusing a lot on basketball and improving her game. She’s coming to a power program and wants to make a mark as a Husky just as she did at Roland Park Country School, dominating everything with the Reds.
It’s doubtful that McLean can jump off to that kind of start, even with her talent — but she can fill a role for the Huskies with time.
“I feel ready,” McLean said. “Not to prove myself but to better myself.”
Photo Credit: Courtesy of UConn Athletics