Brian McGill became a point guard out of necessity.
As the tallest player on his team in sixth grade, he started out as a post player, but then a problem arose.
"We played a team that could press and no one could bring the ball up the court," McGill said. "I just got the ball, dribbled up the court and no one could stop me, and my coach had no choice but to put me at point guard."
At 6-foot-2, McGill is not the tallest player on the UAA men's basketball team, but he is still a point guard. The sophomore transfer from Western Oregon, who redshirted last season, is making a good impression through seven games this season.
His team-high 41 assists through six games, against 12 turnovers, is a strong indicator of his efficiency, but he can also score. A pass-first player, McGill is averaging 17 points per game and shooting 46 percent from the field.
In Wednesday night's first-round game in the Carrs-Safeway Great Alaska Shootout, McGill was electric against TCU, scoring 16 points and dishing six assists in a 73-70 loss.
He repeatedly blew by Division I defenders with his dribble, showed incredible quickness and speed along with the ability to finish at the rim. When the defense managed to cut him off, he found open teammates.
"He delivers the pass wherever we need it, so it definitely makes our job a lot easier," said UAA guard Travis Thompson, a junior who redshirted with McGill last season. "If he can't get the lanes, he finds us, and if has to shoot it, he is more than capable and we have all the faith in him to shoot it."
McGill and Thompson became workout partners last season and the two quickly became friends. There is nothing tougher for a player than not being able to play, so enduring that time was made easier with company, McGill said.
The most torturous part of the season was sitting on the bench during last year's Shootout.
"There's so much excitement for this event and everyone comes out for it," McGill said. "People that maybe don't go to UAA games during the conference schedule, they'll come out and see the Shootout. There's just so much buzz around it."
UAA's goals for the week go beyond winning games against Division I teams.
"It's more about pride for us than anything," McGill said. "A lot of top D-II players got Division I looks or got recruited by Division I schools, but weren't big enough, strong enough, athletic enough, so it's about showing the people around here what we can do and showing the D-I teams what we can do."
McGill, from Clackamas, Ore., connected with UAA through assistant coach Cameron Turner, who is also from Oregon. They met through summer-league play, and when McGill told Turner of his intentions to transfer, he wasn't necessarily thinking of going to another Great Northwest Athletic Conference team.
"I got a call from coach (Rusty) Osborne a couple days later and he really wanted me here," McGill said.
A scholarship was offered, but it wouldn't kick in until this season, which meant McGill had to walk on last season and pay his own way while he red-shirted. The financial burden was nearly a deal breaker, he said. He considered spending a year at a junior college, but didn't want to burn a year of eligibility if he knew he would end up in Alaska anyway. With his mother's help, McGill managed to cover the costs.
"I think, in the long run, it really helped me," McGill said. "Having that second year to just kind of watch the game and see from a coach's standpoint, it really helped me develop my basketball I.Q."
Transitioning back into game action required readjusting to the speed of the game, but McGill said he has worked through some early-season nerves and feels at ease on the court.
McGill's skills on the basketball court were evident from the time he arrived at UAA, Thompson said, but he is a different player now.
"He not only got better, but he got more confident," Thompson said. "He came in a little tentative. Now he's in there and has that confidence back, has a little swagger to him."
The best thing about joining UAA is the opportunity to be part of a fast-paced, open style of play, McGill said. It's a system that suits his game.
"I'm having fun playing basketball now, which is awesome," he said.
Reach Jeremy Peters at email@example.com or 257-4335.
By JEREMY PETERS