Home UConn transfer Mir McLean is a big reason why Virginia is off to an 11-0 start

UConn transfer Mir McLean is a big reason why Virginia is off to an 11-0 start

Scott Ratcliffe
mir mcclean
Photo: UVA Athletics

The Virginia women’s basketball team is off to its best start in more than 30 years, and junior forward Mir McLean has been a major reason why. McLean leads the team in both scoring (13.0 points per game) and rebounding (10.2 boards per game) and has been on a tear during the Cavaliers’ first 11-game win streak since 1995, racking up five double-doubles in her last seven contests.

After a sensational prep career, big things were expected for McLean, who committed to mighty Connecticut to be a part of arguably one of the most dominant college programs of all time.

The 5-foot-11 Baltimore native was a McDonald’s All-American in 2020 before going off to UConn to begin her college career. She was also the Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year after a stellar senior season at Roland Park Country School, and was rated the No. 4 wing as well as the No. 25 overall recruit nationally in the 2020 class.

After averaging six-plus minutes per game in 24 games as a freshman in Storrs, McLean played in just three games (a total of 8 minutes) for coach Geno Auriemma last year before deciding to transfer to UVA after the 2021 fall semester.

McLean made her presence felt upon arrival, playing in 11 games last winter — with 9 starts — and averaging 11.4 points and 8.3 rebounds. She scored 10-plus points in eight of those contests and registered double-digit rebounds in three, showing flashes of her capabilities. But the Cavaliers struggled to a fourth-straight losing season under Tina Thompson, who’s tenure in Charlottesville came to a close in March.

Then came a change at the top, as Amaka Agugua-Hamilton took over the program in April after three successful seasons at Missouri State. Coach Mox saw immediate potential in McLean and the rest of her teammates upon arrival at UVA, and McLean is consistently displaying her skill set on the court in a big way, gaining confidence with each and every game.

“I was kind of nervous after the coaching change, but I’m really blessed to have Coach Mox here, and her staff,” said McLean. “It was a lot of changing at that time that I wasn’t prepared for, but I’m really glad that Coach Mox kind of came in and took us under her wing.”

After sitting out the season opener against George Washington while still recovering from an offseason thumb surgery, McLean has since established herself as one of the top rebounders in the ACC.

She finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds in her season debut against UMBC, followed that up with her first double-double on the road against American (11 points and 11 boards), all while wearing a splint.

“I was really excited to get back, and my teammates have been encouraging me this whole week and prepping me for it,” McLean said after the win over the Retrievers. “It does take a little bit for me to get used to this splint that y’all saw me wearing. I’m still struggling with that, but my teammates helped me a lot with my confidence.”

She then set a new career high — that ultimately wouldn’t last long — with 15 rebounds to go with 11 points against Minnesota in the Cavalier Classic.

McLean was just getting warmed up. The next day against East Carolina, she finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds, then three days later, she exploded for a career-high 24 points to go along with 13 rebounds and 5 assists in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at Penn State.

“I’m still getting uncomfortable with my right hand again, but I think that’s just a testament to mentality,” McLean said after the win over ECU. “We needed a lot more rebounds than we do any other night, this is a big game for us, so I think that just pursuing the basketball was what I was interested in tonight.”

McLean came up one rebound shy of her third double-double in a row against UNC Wilmington (11 points and 9 boards) before breaking her previous rebounding record with 17 against William & Mary last week, part of another double-double performance, as she added 22 points on 7-of-8 shooting. The 17 rebounds tied Pitt’s Amber Brown and Florida State’s Jazmine Massengill for the highest tally in a game this season among ACC competitors.

The Hoos are leading the conference with an average of 47.7 rebounds per contest, and are second in rebounding margin (plus-14.6) behind Notre Dame (plus-16.1). UVA is also first in the ACC in offensive boards with 17.3.

McLean has been the catalyst, ranking third in the conference just behind Virginia Tech’s Elizabeth Kitley (11.2 rebounds per game) and Syracuse’s Dariauna Lewis (10.4). Her 10.2 rebounds per game rank 23rd nationally. McLean is also the league’s top offensive rebounder, with an average of 4.4 per game.

McLean’s five double-doubles are tied for second in the conference behind Kitley, who has posted eight this season.

McLean and the Hoos resume play on Sunday at John Paul Jones Arena with the nonconference finale against Morgan State. Virginia fans are excited to see what she can do in ACC competition against some exceptionally talented conference opponents. If she can stay healthy, the sky seems to be the limit for McLean, and her future is certainly bright.

Scott Ratcliffe

Scott Ratcliffe

Scott Ratcliffe has worked as a freelance writer for several publications over the past decade-plus, with a concentration on local and college sports. He is also a writer and editor for his father’s website, JerryRatcliffe.com, dedicated to the coverage of University of Virginia athletics.