Maddie McCallie grew up surrounded by basketballs and hoops. She developed a passion for the game at an early age, thanks to her mother, Joanne P. McCallie, who’s the head women’s basketball coach at Duke University.
“It’s always been a dream of mine,” said McCallie, a junior guard on the Elon University women’s basketball team. “I played basketball throughout my childhood and I knew it was what I wanted to do in college.”
McCallie, a native of Durham, came to Elon this fall with hopes of pursuing that dream and making an impact on the court. She originally committed to Miami University in Ohio, but after a coaching change and two seasons of playing for the Red Hawks, McCallie got her release from the program.
“We always clear it through compliance to make sure we’re compliant with NCAA rules,” said Elon head coach Charlotte Smith about the transfer process. “You receive a formal letter from compliance stating that this student is interested in transferring, which is kind of like the green light.”
Smith knew McCallie was a terrific scorer and a great outside threat after seeing her play in high school. With key offensive players graduating, that’s something Elon is looking to replace.
“I always tell my players that I won’t recruit talent at the expense of character,” Smith said.
Once McCallie got her release, the first thing Smith wanted to do was get to know her as a person, not just a player. For Smith, one of the most important elements of a team is good chemistry.
“I always tell my players that I won’t recruit talent at the expense of character,” Smith said. “Getting to find out who the person is and what they stand for is important to me. And that was important to Maddie as well, [to be a] part of a family atmosphere.”
McCallie’s visit made the decision easy for her. She was able to meet with the coaches in person and take a tour of campus, where she also met a few professors.
“The basketball program is a better fit for me here,” McCallie said. “The coaching staff showed interest in me, and I felt that they truly cared and really wanted me there, and just how genuine everyone was really made me want to be a part of it.”
For McCallie, the best part about her decision was the chance to be a part of the team and get a new start, although it didn’t come without obstacles.
One of the biggest challenges for any Division I transfer is that he or she must sit out for an entire year of competition. McCallie will not play this season as she abides by that NCAA rule.
“Mentally, you just have to find ways to get excited about just being a practice player every day,” Smith said. “You look outside of yourself and realize the harder I go and the more I push myself, the better it’s going to make someone else.”
The team keeps McCallie motivated. Although she doesn’t play a direct role on the court, she is an integral part of the practices and the team culture.
“Even though I can’t play this year, I still get really excited for the season and being a part of everything else besides the games,” McCallie said.
For McCallie, seeing the potential of the team, watching them compete and seeing all the hard work pay off keeps her eager to play.
“The hardest part is staying motivated and knowing that you are going to play again eventually, it’s just going to take time,” McCallie said. “Looking at it as a chance to get better, support your team and continue to get to know them and get adjusted.”
Despite the difficulty, McCallie is committed to going into each practice determined to improve her game and get integrated into the team dynamics.
Her strength as an outside shooter doesn’t go unnoticed by her teammates, who understand and respect what she brings to the court.
“With the practices she has practiced thus far, they do a great job of knowing where Maddie is on the floor and finding her for open shots,” Smith said.
Even without the ability to compete on the court, Smith said McCallie’s mental approach to every practice is something to be commended.
“Her work ethic is contagious,” Smith said. “She comes prepared for practice every day, and that’s the thing that, as a coach, makes you excited because you can have a lot of talented players out there, but if they aren’t working hard then they’re not setting an example.”
Although it will be a long year before McCallie can actually step out on the court in a uniform and participate, Smith said transferring helps develop a mentality that’s far bigger than herself. For both of them, that’s what being a part of the team is all about.