McFarland caps off college career with trip to Sweet 16

Oklahoma senior Joanna McFarland scored 14 points and a career-high 16 rebounds in the Sweet 16 this year. She owns several basketball records at Derby High School, including single-game, single-season and career scoring.

Joanna McFarland hung up her Derby jersey in 2009 with no shortage of fanfare.

The third and final sister in the family became the program’s all-time leading scorer (1,818), earned Gatorade Player of the Year honors and was ranked nationally by four different recruiting services.

She can now add Derby High School Hall of Fame to her decorated résumé.

Shattering Lady Panther records

It wasn’t just the basketball court for McFarland.

The three-sport Derby athlete once held records in attack percentage and kill efficiency in volleyball. She also participated in track and field in the spring.

However, her pursuit of college basketball was never in question.

“I started playing it when I was 5,” she said. “My sisters started getting scholarships and it was the one I knew I’d pursue … Getting to do those [other sports] was an opportunity to have fun and develop other skills.”

There of course came the inevitable comparisons between her and her sisters Jessica (2002 DHS graduate, Kansas State) and Jackie (2004 DHS graduate, Colorado). All three have now been selected for the school Hall of Fame and the youngest said she feels she was able to carve her own path because of their style of play.

“My game was inherently a little bit different,” she said. “… [Jackie] had to find different ways to score and get to the basket because she didn’t have the strength and force Jessica had. I’m a mix between the two of them. I was a strong player, but could also wiggle around like Jackie could.”

McFarland left the entire program record book in the dust by the time she graduated from Derby. Having averaged 21 points as a junior and 26.8 points per game as a senior, she sits almost 400 points higher than No. 2 all-time leading scorer Kennedy Brown (1,463). She also holds the school record for single-game scoring (47 points) and season scoring (587).

The Derby graduate also averaged 15 or more rebounds per contest in both seasons and sits in the top 10 in career rebounds in state history.

Numbers aside, the former Lady Panther wanted to also set an example of how she felt the game should be played.

“I took a lot of pride in being a leader for my teammates and I wanted to lead by example,” she said. “In every position, you need to play offense and defense, give it your all and show that you’re willing to work twice as hard as everybody else.”

After earning her fourth and final AVCTL league honor, McFarland sat at No. 35 and No. 38 nationally by All Star Girls Report and ESPN HoopGurlz recruiting, respectively. The latter source also had her as the 11th best post player in the country.

When it came time to find her next home, McFarland signed the dotted line in Norman, Okla., and chose to join the University of Oklahoma.

Boomer Sooner

The stars had aligned inside the Oklahoma women’s basketball program.

Having just seen Paris sisters, Courtney and Ashley, graduate, McFarland saw a window for early playing time on top of joining one of the Big 12’s top programs.

“I loved Oklahoma and saw a window of early playing time,” she said. “I remember saying, ‘a chance to play early for a really good team? Heck yeah, let’s do this.’”

While injuries played a factor on her roster, head coach Sherri Coale couldn’t keep McFarland off the floor as she played in all 38 games as a reserve. While it was a crash course in the college game, it gave the Derby graduate immeasurable experience for the remainder of her career.

Oklahoma played in its second-straight NCAA Final Four in her freshman season and joined Baylor in San Antonio, Texas to make it two Big 12 teams in the national semifinals for the first time in league history.

“It was good to get exposure right off the bat,” McFarland said. “I got decent minutes and I was really able to play a lot.”

McFarland only grew more confident in her remaining seasons as a Sooner. Making 21 starts as a sophomore, the Derby graduate had two-straight games of double-doubles to open the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

The category peaked in McFarland’s senior year (11) when only former Baylor great Brittney Griner ranked ahead of her in the Big 12 in double-doubles.

With that growth as a player came a close relationship with Coale.

“She’s a great motivator and teacher,” McFarland said. “She can pick out what’s going to influence each player. She knows how to get under their skin or support any of them when they need it … she wants to unlock the best ability in each of her players.”

Academics were paramount for McFarland through college and she didn’t disappoint in the classroom either. She carried the only 4.0 GPA in women’s basketball in the Big 12 as a sophomore and was an all-conference, first-team academic selection in each of her final three seasons.

Now a pharmacist in the Oklahoma City area, basketball certainly hasn’t left McFarland’s blood. She said nostalgia hits during March Madness or when Derby is in the state tournament. In either situation, she’s proud of where her career took her athletically and professionally.

“The more years that go by, the less I think about the really hard times and the more I think about the fun times,” she said. “… March is also the most fun time in college and that never leaves you.”

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