Banham nears program scoring record

The redshirt senior is close to the career points record owned by Lindsay Whalen.

Rachel Banham shoots from the perimeter on Friday night at Williams Arena where the Gophers defeated Maine 91-64.

Sam Harper

Rachel Banham shoots from the perimeter on Friday night at Williams Arena where the Gophers defeated Maine 91-64.

Kaitlin Merkel

Gophers redshirt senior guard Rachel Banham is expected to break the program’s career scoring record within the team’s three road games this week.

Banham needs 55 points to break the record of 2,286 points, set by former Gophers and current Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen.

“It’s going to mean so much. It’s one of those goals that you think about, but you never know if it’s really going to happen,” Banham said. “Everyone wants to be the leading scorer and … it’s actually something that I can actually do, so that’s really cool. I’m going to be so excited.”

Banham will likely break the record on the road as the Gophers take on Kent State University on Tuesday in Ohio, followed by Stetson and Auburn on Friday and Saturday in the San Juan Shootout in Puerto Rico.

“It’d be fun if it was [broken] at home, just with the fans and stuff because they’ve been so supportive,” Banham said. “Some people have told me, ‘Maybe you should just slow down, like average three points here.’ … I’m not going to think that way. It’s going to happen when it happens.”

Minnesota head coach Marlene Stollings said the team will honor Banham after returning home on a later date.

“It’s monumental. It’s not often … that you get to see someone break or set a record of such magnitude in your lifetime, even,” Stollings said. “It’s just history in the making, and it’s fun to watch her every night out.”

Stollings joked that while it would be special to break the record in front of a home crowd, she said she’ll likely have to keep playing Banham on the road trip to ensure the team wins.

Banham’s teammate and Gophers sophomore guard Carlie Wagner said the team jokes around with Banham about breaking the record.

“We definitely talk about it … during games like, ‘Hey, Rachel, you going to get 40 [points] this game?’ ” Wagner said, “She’s getting really close, and we’re getting really excited. She deserves to break that record.”

Banham, who already holds the career record for three-point shots made at Minnesota, said she prefers to focus on team goals instead of her personal records.

“I’m not thinking about it too often. I know it’s going to come with how I play and how the team plays,” Banham said. “I love it, it’s great, it’s super exciting, but it will be nice to move past it and start talking about team goals and bigger goals that are out there and further down the road.”

Stollings, who holds the Ohio high school basketball scoring record for both boys and girls with 3,514 career points, said Banham likely won’t realize the importance of her record for a while.

“When it happened, I was just playing basketball and scoring and trying to help the team win, and I would say Rachel looks at it much the same way,” Stollings said. “When you’re in the moment, you don’t realize the magnitude of it. But I think it’ll be some years down the road before she really absorbs what it means and what she has accomplished.”

Stollings said Banham, who came back for a redshirt senior year after tearing her anterior cruciate ligament in December last year, has been focused on her team instead of the record.

“With Rachel, personally, it’s been business as usual,” Stollings said. “[Her teammates are] big fans of Rachel. … A large reason why she came back was for our fans and for her teammates and obviously the ‘unfinished business’ as she calls it.”