In a gym on the campus of the University of Hawaii, Megan Huff accepted the invitation.
It was an invite to jump in and play some pick-up basketball. Some members of the Hawaii women’s team knew Huff, the high-flying volleyball player, had hops. She had a history of hoops, too. So they invited her to join and when she did, it all came rushing back. This was four years ago, and now, as she takes a seat in the stands inside the Huntsman Center, the linchpin of what’s brought Utah back to its first AP Top 25 ranking in over a decade, Huff looks down at her feet and laughs.
“A volleyball player in Hawaii to where I am now,” she said, shaking her head. “Wow.”
Where she is now is the key cog in a slow and steady turnaround of a program. Where she is now is one of the top players in arguably the best and deepest conference in women’s basketball. Megan Huff’s journey toward the top started in a pick-up game in paradise, but now she’s living out the dream she rediscovered that day over four years back.
“It’s kind of mind-boggling with how everything’s progressed,” she said.
Soon after she joined that pick-up game, she accepted an invite to join the Hawaii women’s basketball team. For a while, she was a dual-sport athlete. Her passion for basketball grew and grew. Eventually, she knew she wanted a change. A shot at rounding out her game, at being more than just a back-to-the-basket big. So she left Hawaii and landed in Utah where, under Lynne Roberts, she’s thrived in an offense that allows even the strongest like the 6-foot-3 Huff to diversify their game, rather than be pigeonholed by it.
CALIFORNIA AT NO. 21 UTAH
When • Friday, 7 p.m.
TV • Pac-12 Networks
She’s a senior at Utah now, averaging 19.6 points per game (sixth in the Pac-12) and 9.4 rebounds per game (second in the conference). Huff has transformed into the sort of force Roberts and her staff envisioned when the forward from Federal Way, Wash., landed in Salt Lake City a few years ago.
“I think her frame, her athleticism, her hands, her length — we knew she was a good basketball player,” Roberts said. “I think what separated her to where she is now is her own work ethic. So of the much time, we had to monitor what she does on her own time, because she’ll overdo it.”
It took time to become the kind of offensive threat Huff has become known for. Her redshirt year at Utah, she spent — surprise, surprise — in the gym as often as she could. She worked with a skills trainer to hone various facets of her skill set. She wanted to become a sharpshooting big, who could take opponents off the dribble when need be, but also to post up in the corner and be relied upon to hit timely 3’s. At Hawaii, she attempted only 11 3-pointers in her two seasons there. In Salt Lake, she’s made 58 career 3’s and counting. Roberts calls Huff the best 3-point shooter the No. 21 Utes have. A year ago, Huff was named an All-Pac-12 first team selection.
“I still want to expand my game more,” said Huff. “I’m not settling for how I am now.”
Early on, it was an adjustment, Huff said, playing, well, all over the place. Last year she found herself in foul trouble guarding elite perimeter players. This year, she’s more comfortable, more locked in. She is also the quiet superstar, Roberts explained.
“Huffy doesn’t really like the attention,” said Roberts, “which is unique for a superstar. Some of them like it, crave it, need it.”
Not Huff. She’s more zeroed in on finding more ways to improve, because as she explains, up until a few years ago, she never had an offseason. It was either volleyball or basketball. In high school and later in college at Hawaii. She’s finally where she wants to be, on the court full-time, exploring how she can become a harder assignment, how to rebound with the same tenacity and how all of this will help her get to where she’s dreamt of her whole life: the pros.
She grew up going to Seattle Storm games at Key Arena in her hometown of Seattle. Sue Bird was her hero. She wants to play in the WNBA. Roberts guarantees that Huff is a WNBA draft pick next year. She’s that good, her coach says. Her college career will come to a close in the next few months, but there’s so much more beyond the horizon for Megan Huff.
“For me, I know it’s kind of just the beginning,” she said.