Roysland spurns lucky laundry for defensive intensity in expanded role off Gophers’ bench

David McCoy

Some women worry about their hair, most college students worry about their grades and every basketball player worries about being able to make clutch shots.

But at least Kelly Roysland has one thing she doesn’t have to worry about.

She’s wearing the right socks.

Roysland, who has a history of superstitious behavior that she said she has begun to recently move away from, made a habit of wearing the same black NBA socks for every game at the beginning of Minnesota’s women’s basketball season.

“Well, I don’t just have one black pair,” Roysland said. “I have like six pairs of the same kind, but anyway. I don’t know, I just thought they were really cool socks, so I was like, ‘I’m going to start wearing them for every game and see what happens.’ “

But come game time Sunday, Roysland found herself without black socks and put on a different style for Minnesota’s matchup against Illinois.

Swapping the socks proved to work to Roysland’s advantage, as the sophomore guard torched the Illini for a careerhigh 19 points.

“I didn’t wear them for the last game, because I didn’t have a pair at the gym,” Roysland said. “And I wore the white ones, and what do you know, I had 19 points.

“So I’m going to stick with the white ones.”

Before the beginning of this season, Roysland was in the running for departed Lindsay Whalen’s starting spot at shooting guard.

Junior April Calhoun ended up winning the spot, but Roysland has averaged 19 minutes a game during the last month in coach Pam Borton’s seven-player rotation.

“Kelly’s a big part of our success this year,” Borton said. “She’s a player, as well as Liz (Podominick), who could start for us. There is no drop-off of production when she is in.”

Now, the Fosston, Minn., native is angling for increased playing time after what she said she hopes was her breakout game.

“I think anytime you play well, you look for things that might change,” Roysland said. “I think it kind of depends on the flow of the game. You can never really guarantee anyone any certain amount of minutes or anything like that, but we’ll see. Whatever happens, happens.”

Borton will have an even more difficult time keeping Roysland on the bench if she continues to progress defensively – the shortage of skills that Roysland said was why she didn’t get the nod in Borton’s defensively minded system.

Gophers defensive stopper Shannon Bolden said Roysland is already making huge strides in that department.

“Actually, from last year to this year, Kelly is so much more defensive,” Bolden said. “She’s worked hard to improve her defense, and over the last few games, she’s done so well staying on her player and pressuring the ball and not giving them a pass.”

Even if Roysland continues her defensive improvement, she’ll still be hard-pressed to mirror an astounding high school career that included three state basketball championships, as well as two in volleyball.

The Fosston High School graduate also led her hoops team to 78 consecutive victories – spanning approximately three years and setting a Minnesota (boys and girls) high school record.

Roysland hasn’t earned those kinds of accolades yet – and with a little luck, they might come.

But right now, she’s earning more of her breaks from bumps and bruises than black socks.

“You could say I want to be this or that, but I want to play my role and make the team successful,” she said. “The team has certain goals, like the Final Four and a NCAA championship, and individual awards will come with hard work.”

McCarville nabs award

Minnesota senior Janel McCarville was named co-Big Ten player of the week along with Penn State senior Tanisha Wright after averaging 20.5 points and pulling down nine rebounds against Michigan and Illinois last week.

It is the fifth time McCarville has won the award in her career.