Govero still learning on the court
Mississippi State's Mary Kathyrn Govero may be a student teacher in the Starkville School District this fall, but she's still learning a thing or two herself on the basketball court.
After shooting a team-best 38 percent from three-point range during last season's NCAA Sweet 16 run for MSU, Govero always looks for ways to improve that art.
Govero watched the movie "The Pistol" with Pete Maravich while growing up in Clinton and went to work on her shot.
"Shooting is something that has been my strong point from when I started playing basketball," Govero said. "I would go into the back yard and try to imitate what I saw (Maravich) doing. My dad told me not to go to the three-point line before I was ready so I developed an inside jump shot early on.
"As I got older and stronger, I kept bringing it further and further out. I think it's helped me to have the shot I have today."
Fellow senior guard Alli Smalley from Auburn has noticed the additions to Govero's game over time.
"She's very tough to guard because she has the outside three that she can knock down and she can put you back on your heels with a nice one-dribble pullup," Smalley said. "She brings a lot of energy to their team."
Govero, who averaged 11.6 points last season, hit 5 of 6 field goals from three-point range for 15 points to help the Lady Bulldogs defeat Ohio State 87-67 and reach the Sweet 16, then she followed that up with a 19-point outing against Florida State in the regional semifinal.
Last year, Govero relied on other players to help her get open shots. In the offseason, she has worked on developing situations to get her own shots by using screens or using the dribble.
Govero's style of play and progress has been noticed throughout the Southeastern Conference.
"She has turned herself into a really nice player," Auburn coach Nell Fortner said. "She's a legitimate three-point threat every time she touches the ball and you have to know where she is all the time. She has made a nice player for Mississippi State."
Ole Miss coach Renee Ladner said it's not just Govero's shooting that makes her a special player, but it's the love she has for the game.
Ladner remembers watching Govero set records in high school and although she had some questions about her game at that time, those are not founded today.
"Our biggest concern was she going to be physical enough and would she be able to get the shot off and fast enough, but to her credit, because of a great work ethic and her desire to play, she has stepped up to the plate and has been very instrumental in putting Mississippi State basketball on the map," Ladner said. "She's a gym rat and you can see the joy on her face. She loves to play the game. She's always looking for that shot and she wants to be the one to take the last shot. We don't all have that type of player."
Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said the first thing that impresses him about Govero, while watching film and preparing for games, is how she has developed into a complete player.
"Her effort allows her to play at a very high level," Mitchell said. "She'll always get a rebound and hit a big shot at an opportune time. She'll get a big stop. She is a complete basketball player and a person I admire greatly in this league."
Govero is the only returning starter from an MSU team that went 21-13 last season and is the only senior on the roster until Ashley Newsome completes her responsibilities with the volleyball team.
Since she's one of the few veteran Lady Bulldogs, Govero understands her role on the team must reach a higher level.
"I look at it as an opportunity to push myself to be the best player I can be," Govero said. "It puts me in a circumstance that I haven't been in since high school. My role on (MSU's) team is different than it has been in the past. I will try to enjoy that and try not to put too much pressure on myself."
Actually her time as student-teacher for 6th, 7th and 8th grade girls at Armstrong Middle School in Starkville has helped in that regard.
"I've become a better communicator," Govero said. "I want to be a coach and this will get me a lot of experience day in and out by going to school, being a leader, then going to practice and being a leader."
It has been a challenging fall for Govero with her student teaching, striving for graduation in December and fitting in basketball with the Lady Bulldogs.
MSU coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said Govero seems to juggle everything nicely.
"She is a hard-worker and a tremendous role model," Fanning-Otis said. "If there was ever a definition of a student-athlete, that combination would be Mary Kathryn Govero. I have been tremendously blessed for her to be a part of this program.
"I expect the leadership to step up and the goals she set I know she'll try every way possible to make sure that happens for this team."