There is no doubt in the mind of Saugus girls basketball coach Jason Conn that Libbie McMahan could play Division 1 basketball.
But instead, McMahan is headed to play Division 1 softball at UC Davis.
“Libbie absolutely could’ve played either low-end Division 1, any 2 or any 3 (basketball) even right now,” Conn said. “How can the league MVP not be playing college basketball next year? It’s that simple. She’s that good. Bottom line.”
Basketball is a fairly new endeavor for McMahan. Softball is what she’s played since she was a kid. She grew up going to the spring clinics that the Saugus varsity team held and throughout middle school, she went to watch almost all the varsity games with her mom.
When she reached her first year of high school, her mom urged her to try out for basketball. Not wanting to disobey her mom, she went out for the team and made varsity.
Like many varsity freshmen, McMahan was reserved. With no club basketball experience, she tried to soak up all the knowledge she could and was driven to get better at the sport.
“I was more like, I don’t want to say an extra fifth man on the court because I did contribute,” McMahan said, “but sophomore year I worked so hard to get better and eventually I was making all the 3-pointers that I shot in a drill. Playing basketball as helped me become more determined to become better. It’s something I wasn’t always good at.”
As her freshman year of basketball continued, softball was just around the corner. Once again showing her determination, McMahan achieved her goal of making varsity softball. She was one of two freshmen on the team.
She was ready for the varsity level in terms of skill and competition, but she worried her new teammates wouldn’t accept her because she couldn’t immediately dedicate all of her time to softball because of basketball.
Her concern was unnecessary.
“One of my friends told me — we’re good friends now — but a couple weeks in coming from basketball to softball she walks up to me and said ‘I thought you were going to be so mean that you were a freshman that just walked on to varsity but you’re so cool and I really love you,’” McMahan said.
As her Saugus sports career continued, she had support from both her basketball and softball friends and family. The softball team cheered her on at basketball games and the basketball team made appearances at softball games.
The support continued and her talent grew. In her junior year, she was All-Foothill League honorable mention in softball after the Centurions won the league title.
Her senior year, as the Cents were the undefeated league champs, she was named the Foothill League MVP in basketball and finished with over 1,500 career points for a new program record.
She was poised to have another all-league-worthy season in her senior year of softball. As a consistent batter who could be counted on for base hits, McMahan was a spark plug in the middle of the batting order. According to coach Julie Archer, her attitude was just as valuable.
“One of the best I’ve ever seen as an athlete, having that intense, competitive attitude but bringing that fun spirit,” said Archer. “It’s hard for athletes to find that middle ground because some are too goofy or too intense, they overthink, but she does a perfect job of having that balance. Fun, but a competitive spirt.”
McMahan will be leaving it all behind when she gets to UC Davis, but she’s excited for a new challenge. While Santa Clarita Valley residents staying at home due to coronavirus concerns, she’s still found ways to strive towards her next goal of securing a starting spot in her first year of college.
“It’s a sport I’ve played pretty much all my life, so nothing’s really changed,” she said. “It’s just adapting to better competition in the classroom, I would say, and on the field. Everyone that’s playing athletics is good, it’s a D1 school, so I just have up my game and focus on what’s important.”
And if Conn gets his wish, she’ll try out for the basketball team, too.