March 3, 2011 9:42:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- The student turned teacher has left a model for her teammates to follow.
At 9 tonight, Mary Kathryn Govero will try to extend her career at least one more game when she leads the 11th-seeded Mississippi State women''s basketball team against sixth-seeded Auburn (15-14) in the first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament in Nashville, Tenn.
Govero, the team''s only four-year player, has offered consistent production in a campaign that has seen plenty of growing pains for the Lady Bulldogs (12-16, 4-12 SEC). But Govero has kept a steady hand -- and a steady stroke -- in teaming with junior guard Diamber Johnson to incorporate 11 new players into a program that last season advanced to its first Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
A postseason run like that would be a daunting task considering MSU would have to win four games in four days to earn the SEC''s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. But that doesn''t mean Govero and the Lady Bulldogs will stop trying. It''s a mind-set Govero has used to extend her shooting range to the 3-point line and beyond, and has helped her develop an ability to create shots off the dribble. She said she is proud she always has worked hard because she knew coming from a small school things wouldn''t come easy for her.
"(What I have done) allows people to know it is possible to reach your dreams whenever you work hard," Govero said. "The sky is the limit, and you can''t let what people say put limitations on what you''re going to achieve."
Govero has used those skills to play in 126 games (88 starts), which is second all-time at the school. She is 12th on MSU''s all-time scoring list (1,150 points) and has hit 178 3-pointers, which is third in school history.
Govero said she hasn''t had time to reflect on what she has accomplished and the role she has played in helping the program reach the NCAA tournament the past two seasons. She said she didn''t come to Starkville on a mission to prove people wrong. She credits coaches and teammates for believing in her and allowing her to blossom as a player.
"There have been so many people from early on and from high school that have helped me and I would not have made it from where I was to where I am today," Govero said. "It is a testament to what God opened up and allowed me to do while I have been here."
This season, she leads the team in scoring (12.8 points per game) and in 3-pointers (67). That total is sixth-best in school history.
Earlier this week, her performance on the court earned her second-team All-SEC honors. A member of the SEC Community Service team, she also was named the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She compiled a 3.92 grade-point average, earning her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology. She is in her first semester in pursuit of her graduate degree.
MSU coach Sharon Fanning-Otis praised Govero''s ability to become a more versatile player on offense. She said Govero has learned how to use screens better, to be ready to shoot when the ball hits her hand, and to absorb contact when she shoots. All of the work Govero has done has left the returning players with a valuable road map to follow, Fanning-Otis said. "It has been a process each year and she has become a better leader," Fanning-Otis said. "She has always been a player who worked hard and has done anything a coach would want a player to do from a team standpoint. If you look up student-athlete (in the dictionary), the person by that who you are going to find is Mary Kathryn. Her name would be there as far as a model (for other people to try to emulate)."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.