Rachel Banham sets scoring record in Puerto Rico

The redshirt senior now has 2,304 points in her career in 117 games played so far.

Minnesota guard Rachel Banham dribbles past Green Bay guard Megan Lukan on March 19,2014  at Williams Arena.

Chelsea Gortmaker, Daily File Photo

Minnesota guard Rachel Banham dribbles past Green Bay guard Megan Lukan on March 19,2014 at Williams Arena.

by Kaitlin Merkel

When Rachel Banham pictured breaking Minnesota’s all-time scoring record, she said she imagined Williams Arena full of fans standing and cheering.
 
Instead, the Gophers redshirt senior guard broke the record with Minnesota down by 13 points against Auburn in a largely empty arena in the San Juan Shootout in Puerto Rico on Saturday night.
 
“It was a lot different just because it was away and not at home,” Banham said. “I wasn’t thinking about it a whole lot. Our team was down by a decent amount, so I was really focused on the game … but it was still really cool regardless.”
 
Gophers sophomore guard Carlie Wagner said although the moment was less dramatic than planned, the team was proud to be part of the historic moment.
 
“It was just such a special moment because … we’re never going to see that record be broken probably ever,” Wagner said.
 
Banham said her phone was flooded with messages after the game. One of them was a text from former record holder Lindsay Whalen.
 
“She texted me after the game and just said, ‘Super proud of you, very deserving and congrats,’” Banham said. “She’s an incredible basketball player, so being able to say that I’m up there with her is one of the coolest things I’ll ever be able to say.”
 
Banham returned to Minnesota for a fifth year this season after tearing her anterior cruciate ligament on Dec. 10. She has plenty of time left in the season to build upon her new record.
 
Banham’s record now stands at 2,304 career points, and she has 24 regular season games remaining. She is averaging 25 points per game this year, which would be a career high.
 
“Having a chance to break an all-time scoring record is not common,” Gophers head coach Marlene Stollings said. “She’s going to have an opportunity to build on it … and it could be something that she sets the bar really high for the next person to try to take the record down.”
 
Banham broke the record over five seasons in 117 total games, while Whalen’s old record was set in 113.
 
Banham scored her 2,304 career points through 809 total field goals, including 255 three pointers and 431 free throws.
 
Banham currently plays four different positions for Minnesota in its four-guard lineup. Stollings said this versatility on the floor allows Banham to score freely.
 
“I think Rachel’s different [from most players] in her ability to score. She’s very difficult to guard because she can score in so many different ways,” Stollings said.
 
The head coach also said she was proud to see Banham return to finish her career on the court after the bad timing of her injury last season.
 
“I think it shows a lot of her commitment to the fans, her teammates, the program, but also [to] her unfinished business,” Stollings said. “This is only the beginning. She has very lofty goals all the way to the end with the WNBA draft, so this is one of them that she can check mark off her list and [continue] onward with all of the other things that
remain.”
 
Banham said with the scoring record out of the way, she is happy she can focus on team goals, such as an NCAA tournament berth. That won’t stop her from reflecting back on it later on though.
 
“Ten years down the road, it’ll really hit me, I’m sure, but it’s really surreal. I don’t think it’s really fully sunk in for me,” Banham said. “I’m just kind of living in the moment and … it’ll be sweet to look up in the stands [one day] and see my picture hanging.”