Cayla McMorris, a 6-foot senior from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, is considered one of the greatest women’s basketball players to ever play at the University of Wisconsin.

She started off coming off the bench her freshman year and began to quickly gain recognition and more playing time her sophomore and junior year. In the 2016-17 season, she was one of only two players to start every game and in over half of the games she played, she led the team in scoring.

McMorris has had the utmost impact on UW’s women;’s basketball team throughout her four years as a student athlete. Her drive to make not only herself better, but the team as whole, will leave a lasting impression when she graduates in May.

After a career as distinguished as that of McMorris’, there were surely to be moments that stood out. One of her favorite memories was one of the 2016-17 season, when the Badgers won the first Big Ten Tournament game. The team made it past the first round of the Big Ten Tournament for the first time in more than 10 seasons — a big accomplishment for a team that has struggled to find sustained success over the years.

For herself and her team, McMorris said that win meant the future is looking optimistic and the program will rely on the development of the five new recruits for the 2018-19 season.

“It shows where the program is going. It proves how much work we put in,” McMorris said.

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Her plans after graduating didn’t originally include playing basketball, but McMorris has since changed her mind and decided to take her talents elsewhere to play professionally. She hopes to get tryouts with WNBA teams in the near future, or go abroad to play for an international league. The skills she sharpened and strength she gained as a Badger have prepared her to turn her passion into a career.

McMorris was the first top 100 recruit Wisconsin snatched up since 2009 — improving the reputation of the women’s basketball team tremendously going forward. McMorris’ dedication to the team and the imprint she is leaving behind allowed them to get three incoming freshmen from the nation’s top 100 for the upcoming season. This is not only representative of her influence on the program, but also show the small steps taken to improve the lineup.

Her advice for the team next season is to “buy in completely and work hard. Listen to coaches and play together, then things will work out.” She should know, as she certainly took her own advice for the past four years and is now moving forward to play professionally.

UW’s women’s basketball team is heading in the right direction and a lot of it has to do with the relationships built between teammates and coaches. McMorris said she learned to be a leader on this team and it has prepared her going forward to work with new teammates and coaches, wherever that may be.

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McMorris said she will miss constantly having a reminder of where she has to be and a set practice schedule. She knows in the future, she will have to be responsible for her whereabouts now that she won’t have class on top of her strict workout and practice routine. Not only will she miss the regularity of being a student athlete, but she will of course, miss her team and coaches who have gotten her to this point in her basketball career.

She credits head coach Jonathan Tsipis and all of the other “amazing” assistant coaches and trainers who have helped shape her into the player she is today.

McMorris ended her last season averaging 13.7 points per game — the highest on the team. She was certainly the squad leader and embodied the spirit of the UW’s women’s basketball team. While the Badgers will certainly miss her charisma and talent next season, they have so much to look forward to.