Sometimes she's fading away, other times she's leaning in. Off the dribble, on the run, it doesn't seem to matter. Rachel Banham drains shot after shot.
If Splash Brothers Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are taking new members, they might consider adding Banham as a sister.
Though Banham's name might not sound familiar to everyone outside of women's college basketball, the highlights might. The 5-foot-9 senior guard from the University of Minnesota scored 60 points against Northwestern (tying the NCAA single-game scoring record) in February, set the Big Ten career scoring record with 3,093 points (sixth all-time in NCAA Division I), and basically broke all of Minnesota's scoring and shooting records, most of which were previously held by Gophers legend and Olympic gold medalist Lindsay Whalen.
"It's been incredible," Banham said. "[Kobe and Elena Delle Donne] are people that I look up to, so it's cool to hear what they have to say, and know that they're watching. That's just really cool and something I wouldn't have expected."
Banham is expected to be a first-round pick in Thursday's WNBA draft (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET), but she knows she likely won't be starting her pro career in Minnesota. The defending WNBA champion Lynx have the second pick of the second round, and with guards Renee Montgomery, Whalen and Seimone Augustus on the roster, they don't really need another scoring guard.
Not that Banham will be around anyway. Though the UConn trio of Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck are expected to dominate the upper half of the first round, Banham is projected in some mock draft to go to Connecticut (which has the Nos. 3 and 4 picks) or Dallas (No. 5).
Either way, the homegrown talent will be trekking out on her own for the first time.
"It'll be a little scary. I've never been out of Minnesota for an extended amount of time," Banham admitted. "Going away, I'll learn a lot about myself, grow up a little bit, and not keep relying on people in Minnesota."
If you didn't hear about Banham until she dropped 60 points on Northwestern (or 52 against Michigan State), you're probably not alone, but she has been around (and scoring) since before that fateful February afternoon. Banham averaged 16.1 PPG, 20.7 PPG and 22.1 PPG in each of her first three seasons, but this one was different. Banham was on another level, which is even more impressive considering that she bounced back from a torn ACL suffered in December 2014.
There are always lingering questions about how the injury affects speed, lateral quickness and explosiveness.
"I think people forget the serious injury she had last year," said Andy Berkvam, who coached the Lakeville North High School girls' basketball team for 23 years, including Banham's high school years. "I had 23 girls tear their ACL, and I've never seen someone come back the way that Rachel did. It's phenomenal what she's accomplished."
This past season -- one that ended for Minnesota in the second round of the WNIT -- Banham put up career numbers in points (914), points per game (28.6, which ranked second in the country) and field goal percentage.
The fact that Banham shot 45.7 percent from the floor is even more impressive considering how many shots she took over the course of the season. Banham attempted 690 field goals in 32 games. That's an average of 21.56 attempts per game. In comparison, UConn's Stewart averaged 12.78 field goal attempts per game, Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell averaged 18.47, and Kelsey Plum 20.54. Except for Stewart, Banham shot a better percentage than all of them.
In the past few weeks, she was named an AP first-team All-American, an espnW first-team All-American, a WBCA honorable mention All-American, and was a finalist for the Wooden Award. She also won the overall 3-point competition (for men and women) at the State Farm College Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championship.
Oh, and she met Bryant.
Mamba blood. That was high praise coming from Bryant, but the sentiment is not lost on her teammates. She and fellow guard (and Minnesota native) Carlie Wagner laugh about it quite often.
"We call her the Maroon Mamba," Wagner laughed. "We just always have to give her crap because she's so good."
Banham's style can only be described as lethal. It's a difficult challenge to find someone who takes as many contested shots as she does on a given night. She is rarely actually open or lost by the defense. Instead, Banhanm takes advantage of slivers of space and uses deception to continuously score. She might look at a teammate as she dribbles, but in a split second squares her shoulders, elevates and drains a shot before the defense even knew what hit it.
It takes guts to shoot the way Banham does, and a whole lot of confidence. But that confidence hasn't ballooned into arrogance. Wagner describes her as being humble, and Berkvam told stories about Banham's team-oriented mindset. On the court, she might play with swagger, but it's apparent that she tries not to get swept up in the attention. In many ways, she's just happy to have the opportunity to play, and would love to take her talents to the next level.
"I don't really keep an eye on mock draft stuff," Banham said. "I'm just hoping I get drafted somewhere, of course. It'd be cool to go first round, but wherever I go, it'll be a blessing."
What Banham has meant to the Gopher women's basketball program cannot be overstated. Her playing career as a Gopher infused energy into a program that had not experienced much success since Whalen's playing days a decade earlier. Banham is practically a household name in the state, her tenacity and game admired by the girls who want to follow in her footsteps.
Her last game at home -- when the Gophers upset then-No. 5 Ohio State -- fans held banners blazed with "Banham's Barn." The cheers for her were so loud the vibrations could be felt on the tables on press row. She will be missed by the fans, and also by coach Marlene Stollings.
"The performances she's put up are just really special," Stollings said. "There are times that as a college coach, you know that you're not necessarily going to have another Rachel Banham in your coaching career. She's just a really special young lady and I'm really privileged to have had this time with her."