When Julia McClure arrived at Secaucus High School a little more than two years ago and became a part of the Patriots’ proud girls’ basketball program, she instantly had to adapt to the needs of the team.
So McClure, who stands around 5-foot-7, was given the role of being a power forward.
“I just had to do what I had to do,” McClure said.
McClure made the most of her chances as a power forward, averaging close to 18 points and 11 rebounds per game, earning Hudson Reporter All-Area First Team honors.
A year ago, the Patriots were bolstered by the addition of some talented freshmen inside players, so McClure was moved to more of a swing position, a combination of a small forward and a shooting guard.
“To me, it’s just playing basketball,” McClure said. “I really don’t think I’ve changed much.”
McClure didn’t miss a beat, earning All-Area First Team honors once again. Her point totals might have dipped a little, but the Patriots didn’t suffer, winning 28 games and playing in both the Hudson County Tournament and NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I championship games, thanks to McClure’s efforts.
So before the 2013-14 season tipped off, the Patriots suffered a big loss, when their premier inside player decided to transfer to another school.
No problem. It just meant old reliable McClure had to move back to power forward.
“I’m comfortable there because I had played there,” McClure said. “I’m told that if I want to play in college, I’m going to have to be a guard, because I’m only 5-7. But this is what I have to do to help the team. I’m just playing. I don’t think there’s a real change.”
Secaucus head coach John Sterling knew that McClure was going to be able to handle the position change once again.
“It’s an ever changing process,” Sterling said. “Players come and go, so the responsibility changes. But Julia does a superb job in all areas, in everything she does. She’s extremely unselfish and knows her role. She had to play inside as a freshman and did well. When we were able to move Julia outside to small forward, she did that well.”
Added Sterling, “By design, I want her closer to the basket, because she’s such a tremendous rebounder. When the shot goes up, you want her close to the basket, because she can truly jump and get the ball. She’s a special rebounder. She’s a fabulous athlete.”
McClure believes that her ability as a three-sport athlete helps her in everything she does. She is also a fine volleyball player and was the shortstop on the Patriots’ softball team that captured the school’s first-ever county and state sectional championships last spring.
“I definitely think that playing volleyball helps me get ready for basketball,” McClure said. “It helps to give me strength in my legs and helps me jump for rebounds. I also definitely think that basketball gets me ready for softball, in terms of my reaction time at shortstop, getting to the ball.”
McClure knows that she’s been fortunate enough to play the three sports.
“I’m obviously lucky to be the athlete I am,” McClure said. “I’m naturally athletic and my athleticism has helped me be a three-sport athlete.”
For now, the junior McClure is content being a basketball player. She is enjoying another standout season for the Patriots, one of the leading contenders for the Hudson County Tournament championship next month.
Last week, McClure had a sensational streak for the Patriots, doing a little bit of anything and everything.
McClure had nine points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and four steals in a win over Queen of Peace, scored 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in a win over a tough Saddle River Day squad and had 13 points and seven rebounds in a blowout win over Harrison.
For her efforts, McClure has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Sterling just loves the versatility that McClure provides for his team.
“Since she’s been with us for three years, she’s now a captain, so she’s expected to take more of a leadership role,” Sterling said. “She’s such a hard worker and goes all out all the time. She goes after loose balls and plays so aggressively. I just want her to keep doing what she’s doing.”
Sterling said that he had to push McClure’s buttons a little when she first arrived.
“I have to admit that I was extremely hard on her as a freshman,” Sterling said. “But she’s such a strong willed kind of kid, a fierce competitor. I think I got on her harder than any of the others, because I expected so much from her.”
That tough love approach has worked wonders.
“I think she has a good understanding of what I expect of her,” Sterling said. “And she always does what I expect her to do. It’s like having another coach on the floor.”
“I’ve been with Coach [Sterling] for three years now and I know what to expect,” McClure said. “Andie [Lennon, the team’s junior point guard] and I have to show the others what to do and where to be on the floor. I try to be a good leader. I definitely feel like I’m a smarter player now. I’ve stepped up and I’m trying to help my team step us as well.”
McClure has been trying to juggle her busy schedule. She is an excellent student, among the top students in the Secaucus junior class. She will take on a new challenge this spring, when she replaces former Hudson Reporter Female Athlete of the Year Danielle Roesing as the pitcher on the softball team.
“I’m going to try to work basketball in with my pitching and we’ll see how I do,” said McClure, whose older sister Bryonna is the catcher on the softball team and plays basketball as well. “I’ve pitched my whole life and it helps that my sister is the catcher, so I can throw to her. I’m working on mixing my pitches, but it’s hard to find the time with basketball. I’m trying to do it all.”
But there’s no question which sport McClure favors.
“Basketball is my favorite and I’d love to play basketball in college,” McClure said. “Some people tell me that I’m a better softball player, but I love basketball the best. I’m hoping to play in college.”
Sterling thinks McClure could grace some college basketball roster in two years.
“I think she’ll improve even more in college,” Sterling said. “She’ll have some options. She more than likely would have to be a guard in college. She’ll have to make the decision what sport she wants to play in college, but I think her potential is even greater in college.”
For now, McClure is content filling out the stat sheet every night for the Patriots.
“It makes me feel good when I get noticed for the other things,” McClure said. “Some people just look at points. I want to be more of a well rounded player.”
She’s proven to be that as a power forward, then a small forward, now a power player again. One thing remains consistent with Julia McClure. It’s called her immense talent. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.