Lake Norman & Mooresville

Guard steps up, thrives in larger role for Vikings

Tatum McKee has gone from being a role player to being the focus of attention for the North Mecklenburg girls' basketball team.

The senior seems to be blossoming under the spotlight, but she's also learning to play with a target on her back.

"It's definitely a lot more pressure," the shooting guard said. "But I think I've adjusted well."

McKee is leading the Vikings with 13 points per game after averaging about half of that last year.

"I've definitely picked it up and taken a role that was left last year by Lauren (Lewis)," she said about the void left by the all-conference guard's departure. "Everybody's had to step up."

McKee said she worked hard during the summer, playing AAU ball and spending more time practicing to get better.

So far, that seems to be paying off, as North Meck is off to a good start, winning eight of its first 11 games this season. The team's success is due in large part to McKee and fellow senior Kayla Lemke's play.

Vikings' coach Jennifer Baker has been impressed by the way McKee has performed.

"Tatum has been our all-around player," said Baker. "She's going to hustle for you, play defense, scrap it out for you."

McKee's fast, all-out style of play also allows her to push her team. Baker knows that's important.

"She has to be that player for us to get everybody else pumped up," said Baker. "As she goes, the whole team goes."

As the season has progressed, Baker said, McKee has become the Vikings' "hands down" leader.

"She's not overly vocal, but she leads by what she does on the floor," said Baker. "If Tatum comes through and gets a steal, everybody else is ready to play defense. If she finishes hard to the basket, everybody is going to step their game up."

McKee doesn't describe herself as a "natural leader," but she tries hard to motivate her teammates on the court.

"I want to keep everyone in the game and try to make them to concentrate, but at the same time I let them know that if they make a mistake not to worry about it," she said.

McKee's energy can prove to be the difference in a game.

That's why Baker regularly calls McKee over to the bench during free throws to give her instructions and to keep her focused.

McKee doesn't seem to worry about the extra attention, either from her coach or opponents, during games.

"I just play my game," said McKee. "I don't worry about anything else."

The 17-year-old not only can shoot from the perimeter but also has the ability to drive to the basket, resulting in mismatch problems for her opponents and allowing McKee to draw fouls.

"I don't back off," she said. "I'll go straight to them. I don't care."

McKee has shown a lot of speed and athleticism on the court, but just as important she has shown the ability to stay in control of the ball.

McKee is capable of dribbling through her opponents on her way to the basket as well as breaking full-court pressure.

That's why Baker has had McKee play point guard at times. The coach said that opens up the court for the Vikings.

As North Meck is getting back into the brunt of the I-Meck Conference schedule after playing at the East Lincoln Winter Jam last week, McKee hopes to keep up the way she's been playing all season long.

"I just want to be consistent," she said.

For the Vikings, McKee hopes the team can stay undefeated the rest of the conference season and get far in the 4A playoffs.

She said that will take some commitment, both from herself and her teammates.

"We have to work together and just keep doing what we're doing," said McKee.