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Point of Emphasis: McKibbens steers Lady Devils

Few can match Keyona McKibbens' vision. Where some players can only see what's unfolding in front of them, the Merced College redshirt sophomore is thinking four steps ahead.

Blue Devils coach Allen Huddleston called McKibbens the smartest guard to come through his program and after watching the point guard run MC's show, it's tough to argue.

"She had this one pass over the weekend where she lasered a ball from the right wing down to Tanisha (White) in the post," Huddleston said. "Even the Lassen coach had to say 'Whoa!' "

Similar expressions get tossed around all the time when McKibbens is handling the ball.

"I saw that pass as soon as I passed half court," McKibbens said with a surge of pride. "I just had to wait for the girl to move out of the way and it was there.

"I love throwing balls down to the post and being the playmaker."

The MC guard should probably be among the state leaders in assists, but points haven't been easy for the Lady Devils this season.

MC has shot just 37 percent from the floor on the season, leaving McKibbens with a team-best 2.2 assists per game.

The rim has been even more unkind recently as MC (10-11) has dropped four straight. Huddleston's found himself longing for the 37 percent shooting days as the Lady Devils have turned in 16 for 68 and 17 for 78 performances in their last two outings.

"I tell the girls if Keyona has the ball they have to have their hands ready," Huddleston said. "We just miss so many layups.

"She really should be closer to 10 assists per game."

As MC opens up Central Valley Conference play tonight against College of the Sequoias (11-8), Huddleston is concerned far more about McKibbens point totals.

The sophomore has averaged 5.3 points per game, but Huddleston said she's going to need to double that if the Lady Devils are going to make a serious run at the CVC title.

"If she can give 10 points per game, we'll be in pretty good shape," Huddleston said. "Keyona has a tremendous shot and I've told her she needs to look for it more."

McKibbens is equally potent at beating her opponent off of the dribble and getting to the basket. At her coach's behest, she finally started doing it in the Golden Valley/CVC Crossover last weekend.

"You don't have to tell me anything too many times for me to get it," McKibbens said. "I've been a little tentative with my shot because of my knee.

"I know I just need to keep shooting to find it again, but I'm more worried about my next assist than my next basket.

"I guess that's the problem."

McKibbens has fought her way back from a knee injury that forced her to redshirt last season.

If her knee has bothered her, it's never showed.

McKibbens has never hesitated to mix it up this season, taking a couple knocks to the head along with the usual bumps and bruises of collegiate basketball.

"I try to convince her that she can't go inside and mix it up with the big girls, but it doesn't matter," Huddleston said. "She's absolutely fearless."

MC is going to need that quality as attempts to turn around a four-game losing skid against an improved CVC.

"Fresno is obviously still the team to beat," Huddleston said. "COS has a good record, Porterville upset some people and Reedley has some dangerous athletes.

"It's not going to be easy, but I feel better knowing we have Keyona handling the ball."