HANFORD — Bullpups basketball has produced some of the best talent over the last decade and the player signing on Friday was no different.
Kate McClard ceremoniously signed her National Letter of Intent to play basketball at Fresno Pacific University surrounded by friends and family.
“It’s a blessing,” McClard said. “I’m very glad that I get to stay close to home so my dad can come watch me and my family can come see me. I’m super excited to be a Sunbird.”
The four-year varsity player couldn’t help but blush when hearing Hanford coach Doug Pitkin compliment what kind of a person and player she is. Pitkin was ecstatic to see how she’s grown over the last few years and knows she’s ready for the next level.
“It’s very gratifying to see someone of Kate’s ability not only have the opportunity to play at the next level, but have the desire to play at the next level,” Pitkin said.
Her father, Daniel McClard, has now raised two basketball stars after his first daughter, Bayli McClard, was also a star at Hanford a couple years ago.
“She picked a school that she wanted to go to and a good fit for her,” Daniel said. “I’m glad she’s going there. I get to watch her play and all that good stuff.”
McClard, 18, visited Fresno State and Fresno Pacific before ultimately settling on FPU. She said the girls were all welcoming and nice, but in the end, she just knew.
“I just felt more homey [at Fresno Pacific],” McClard said. “The coach, it was about basketball, but it was more about what’s after because basketball isn’t forever. He wanted to prepare us and that, that did it.”
Being able to further her education and play the game she loves was all she needed to hear. She’s still undecided as to what she wants to study, but is confident she’ll find out once she’s at FPU.
McClard, a 5’10” shooting guard and small forward, helped lead her team to a 22-9 record last season and a perfect 12-0 West Yosemite League record. As the 6-seed in the CIF Central Section Division I championships, the Bullpups won their opening-round game and upset 3-seed Clovis North before narrowly losing to 2-seed Clovis, 55-52.
This year will be a bit different after losing four seniors from last year’s squad, including their leading scorer and rebounder. McClard was second on the team in scoring (14.8), rebounding (6.8), assists (3.4) and steals per game (3.2). She also led the team in blocks per game with 0.9 and will be looking to take on that new leadership role.
“It’s not a how am I going to do it,” McClard said. “I have to do it so I just have to step up and do what I need to do to win.”
If Thursday’s scrimmage was any testament to whether she’ll be able to handle the load this season, it was an emphatic yes. Although stats aren’t official, McClard poured in more than 20 points and rebounds against Monache.
“Not only will she lead us in scoring and rebounding and lead the team, but she also will make people around her better,” Pitkin said.
McClard is also fairly confident the team will have no problem continuing their success from past seasons. Although it’s an adjustment to work with new players — the Bullpups will have four varsity freshmen this season — McClard is up to the challenge to make sure everything will run smoothly.
“We’re still gelling, it’s going to take some time because those girls we’ve been with we knew what we were going to do,” McClard said. “As practice goes on, as games go on, as scrimmages go on, we should get up to speed and be able to do what we did before.”
She didn’t want to look too far ahead, but McClard said the goal is to win league, again, and then move on to the playoffs, but her main focus is taking the season game by game and working hard in practice.
For now, she’ll enjoy her moment and take in what she’s been able to accomplish.
“I feel like everything I’ve always been working for since I was in fifth grade is finally coming true,” McClard said. “This is what I’ve been doing for the past eight years just to prepare for this moment.”