CSU, Hofschild found each other as second options — showing how the standout point guard just makes ‘the right play’

CSU women's basketball player McKenna Hofschild likely will hold multiple team records before her career is over.

When McKenna Hofschild drives into the lane with the clock winding down, the Colorado State University point guard knows the first option may not be the best one, and the same thing goes off the court, too.

“My first thought is, ‘Look for a shot.’ So that’s where I go,” said Hofschild, a finalist for the 2023 Nancy Lieberman Award (for best point guard nationwide) from the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. “And then I’ve kind of got to make a quick adjustment if somebody is trying to take that shot away.”

The Minnesota high school legend who scored 63 points in a game back then went to Seton Hall University, a school with a reputation for great basketball. Hofschild averaged 2.1 points in 8.4 minutes per game, playing behind fellow recruit Lauren Park-Lane.

“I was kind of naive in the fact of what I was looking for versus what I should have been looking for,” Hofschild said of her freshman year. “It was a huge learning experience. I think I grew more in that year than I ever have in my entire life.

“So it was in that way very beneficial, but just not the place for me. I felt like I wanted to go somewhere else and find a team that was like a second family to me. So I learned a lot.”

Second options

After deciding to leave Seton Hall, CSU wasn’t among Hofschild’s original school choices, or even after that — until her Amateur Athletic Union coach told her to call Rams coach Ryun Williams.

“I wasn’t really interested when I saw Colorado State just because I was like, ‘That’s not too close to Minnesota,’” Hofschild said. “But I reached out and I just really liked what he had to say and really got along with him and (Assistant) Coach (Rico) Burkett right off the bat. So yeah, I committed within 48 hours of talking to him.”

Williams said he knew all about Hofschild, but that he didn’t originally recruit her, either.

“We were really heavy (on) international players and I didn’t need a PG at that time,” said Willams, who said his sales pitch was: “Put the ball in your hands and be one of the best playmakers in the country. At that time, we needed offense … and, you know, she’s a scorer.”

Hofschild, who on March 5 was named the Mountain West Conference’s player of the year, led the conference with averages of 20.9 points, 7.2 assists, a 3.5-to-1 assist to turnover ratio and 37.3 minutes.

She is in the top five in field goal percentage, free throw percentage and has made 46 percent of her 3-point shots. Hofschild is among the nation’s leaders in turnover ratio and assists per game.

“When I got here, it really felt like a home and it felt like a place where I could thrive,” she said. “And so each year it’s just gotten better and better, I feel.”

National attention

Also among the finalists for the Lieberman award, ironically, is Park-Lane.

“Yeah, we came in together,” Hofschild said. “And we were kind of competing for spots and she won out and she’s been doing really well for them, so it’s pretty cool to see.

“I and my parents were talking about that the other day, seeing us both on that list. It’s kind of funny that we were both recruited by the same coach in the same school.”

Hofschild also was a semifinalist (top 10) for the Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year Award. She hopes to have a chat with the Rams legend, three-time All-American and coach of the reigning WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces.

“I would love to,” Hofschild said. “I haven’t gotten the opportunity yet, but I think that would be really cool, honestly, just to sit down and pick her brain and hear experiences and stories that she’s been through because I know she’s got a lot of good ones.

“We messaged her last year asking if she wanted to come to a game. I think she was busy, but maybe this year we can get her to one” at the MW tourney in Las Vegas.

(March 6 update)

Hofschild and the third-seeded Rams got the chance to meet Hammon during their March 5 practice in Las Vegas. Hofschild said meeting Hammon was a memory she would have “forever.”

Making ‘the right play’

Back to the end-of-game shoot or pass scenario, the 5-foot-2 playmaker recalled CSU’s Feb. 4 home game against Wyoming.

“My full intention was coming off that ball screen trying to take (Wyoming 6-foot-4 standout center Allyson) Fertig downhill and finish at the rim,” Hofschild said. “But I saw Cailyn (Crocker’s) girl help down towards the block. So I was like, all right, I don’t have this lane, so I’ve got to kick it out. I saw (Crocker) on the wing and I felt confident, like she’s knocking this down.”

Crocker did hit the shot, and CSU defeated Wyoming, 66-63. Williams said that was the right play.

“Sometimes the right play is you’ve got to score it,” he said. “Sometimes the right play is you have to pass it. And you know, that goes for every possession during the course of a basketball game. That’s why her assist-to-turnover ratio is (among) the best in the country. She makes the right play.”

Often the right play is an assist. During the 66-51 win over Boise State that locked up a bye in the conference tournament, Hofschild passed Hammon for second all time in CSU assists.

A business administration/marketing major, Hofschild said she’ll play another season next year at CSU — and sign a ton more autographs — while going for a sports management graduate degree and likely owning more school records. But she really wants to roam the sidelines.

“I want to be a coach,” Hofschild said. “My dream is to be around a Division I team every day. Because I love basketball. I love it so much. It’s pretty much my life.”

Turning close losses into wins gives CSU women promise for MW tournament

The Colorado State University women’s basketball team is 19-10 entering its Mountain West Conference tournament March 6 opener against Boise State University. Of those 10 losses, eight were by five points or less or in overtime.

But in the past month, the Rams also have four wins of seven points or fewer.

“I think we’ve learned from those tough losses,” CSU coach Ryun Williams said. “Recently here, we’ve won some really tight games, and I think you just become more comfortable in those situations where we’re a little more prepared for what we might see.”

Cailyn Crocker, who hit a game-winner against Wyoming this season, said it isn’t just McKenna Hofschild who can and must make plays in crunch time.

“I think we know we’re a good team and that at any moment it could be any one of us who needs to get a stop or make a shot or make a free throw,” Crocker said. “So I think what we learned is when it comes down to the tight games or the end, we have to be locked in with each other. We have to communicate. We have to be one on a string, on defense and on offense. So I think we have grown in that.”

Top-seeded UNLV (28-2, 18-0 MW) defeated CSU 91-88 in overtime and by five. Williams said the OT game was as good as an offensive showing as the Rams have displayed in years.

“The sky’s the limit for us I think, when we’re on and we’re working well together,” Hofschild said. “We really play a tough game for anyone that we match up with. So it’s just kind of being consistent with that and knowing that everything in this program is what needs to be here to be successful. We have everything.”

Williams said it’s good for the league that UNLV is ranked in the Top 25. Destiny Thurman agreed, especially as CSU had a rough loss at No. 2-seeded Wyoming before beating Boise State. 

“We have to be on one string and be tough,” Thurman said. “That’s going to have to carry over to the tournament. I think if we do those things, we can beat UNLV and anyone else in the tournament.”