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Utah's sophomore center, who hails from another country, is turning heads by leading the team in scoring and rebounding, grabbing double-doubles left and right.
Maybe you've heard a little bit about Emily Potter. The Canadian post doesn't really shy from comparisons to her unofficial counterpart, Jakob Poeltl, who has the same number of double-doubles (eight) for the men's team as she does this year for the Utah women.
"I guess in terms of my height, in women's basketball, I'm a 7-footer," she said. "There's not really a 7-foot girl. So me, and 6-foot-6, I'm about as close as it comes."
She also has a sizable impact on the game for the 10-4 Utes: Potter averages 16.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and shoots 56 percent from the floor as the team's focal point. She's among the conference's top-10 rebounders, scorers and shot-blockers (2.4 per game) while leading Utah to a better-than-expected start in the first half of the season.
First-year coach Lynne Roberts came in with an up-tempo system she honed at Pacific (Calif.), but made a few tweaks in the scheme for Potter once she realized what she had: a 6-6 skilled defender with a little bit of shooting range and a long wingspan that could dominate the paint and score in halfcourt sets.
"She's making everybody else a little bit better," Roberts said. "She's a great player, but teams are keying on her so much that it's opening other things."
Potter had a modestly strong freshman effort with 10.5 ppg and 6.7 rpg. Great things were expected for 2014-15. But she spent the last year on the shelf when she went down with a preseason ACL injury that devastated the Winnipeg native and pushed back her moment to seize the spotlight.
She went through a nine-month rehab, and toward the end of the road was surprised when coach Anthony Levrets was fired and Roberts came aboard. Potter said she was concerned about it at first "I'm a little bit of a control freak" but added that she bought in soon after meeting her new coach.
Potter said she ran and lifted more than she ever before, and it's made a difference in her play.
"Definitely that held me back in my freshman year: being too tired to be able to play for lengthy amounts of time," she said. "When you're really tired, the mental side starts to go, and you forget what you're supposed to do on offense and defense. My physical shape has helped me the most."
Around Potter, Utah has built a strong attack. Junior wing Paige Crozon has come alive, scoring in double figures in six straight games. Malia Nawahine and Danielle Rodriguez have also stepped up as reliable threats.
But Potter helps take the heat off them: If she can get established early, like she did with 12 first-half points against Washington last week, others can get open looks. Her hook shots and turnaround jumpers are a staple of Utah's offense.
Crozon said last week after scoring a career-high 24 points that the Huskies' focus on her teammate had given her a bit of space to work. Potter had an ordinary second half but 16 points and nine rebounds isn't really a ordinary night for anyone else.
"I don't think Emily has bad nights," Crozon said.
Potter is looking for more good nights from here on out with Pac-12 play in full swing, she can't afford to be off her game. Stanford was able to get the better of her Friday in a 72-52 Utah loss, and she had nine points and four rebounds.
There's a lot to live up to. She's played with two of the best post players to come through Utah: Michelle Plouffe and Taryn Wicijowski. Her fellow Canadians are among the Utes' top six scorers and top three rebounders. Potter is also on the Canadian women's development team, where she hopes to join the likes of former Utes Plouffe, Kim Gaucher and Shona Thorburn on the national team one day.
The Utes give her skill work on the perimeter, practicing shooting and ball-handling, to develop her complete game.
"She's a very competitive human being, and driven," Roberts said. "She's a talent. I want to develop her because she has goals beyond this level to reach her potential to be where she can be."
Similarly, Potter hopes to feed Utah's ambitions with her play. She's well aware of Utah's legacy, ranking eighth all-time in NCAA wins, and she wants to help restore it after a couple of down seasons.
"It's really nice to show everyone this is Utah basketball," she said of Utah's winning start. "I think the tradition of Utah is really amazing. Everyone thinks we're kind of a bottom-feeder in the Pac-12. It's time we get that tradition back and build on it."
About Emily Potter
• Leading Utes in scoring (16.7 ppg), rebounding (11.7 rpg) and blocks (2.4 bpg).
• Top 10 in Pac-12 in scoring, rebounding, blocks and shooting percentage (56 percent).
• Played for Canada's junior national team, now on national development team.
• Was Manitoba's female player of the year as a senior at Glenlawn Collegiate.