Imagine McGonigle Hall full and rocking for Temple’s women’s basketball games. Right now, those are the thoughts in Destiney McPhaul’s head, her own play helping draw people in the doors right off North Broad Street.
This week, McPhaul publicly announced her arrival at Temple on social media, showing herself wearing Owls gear, captioning the photos with “home is where the heart is.”
This all feels as big as it is unexpected. You might not see McPhaul this season. She’s officially enrolled as a freshman at Temple, but her path included a stop this summer at Virginia Tech, enrolled there for summer classes.
McPhaul had been Pennsylvania player of the year out of West Catholic, with scholarship offers from all sorts of big-time places, from South Carolina to Tennessee.
All along, Temple had stayed in her thoughts.
“I got my very first offer from Temple,” McPhaul said this week. “They were the first school to believe I could play on the Division I level. I always had relationships with them. It was hard to turn down Temple.”
But she had turned the Owls down, had committed to Virginia Tech, and got down there in late June, taking two summer classes. It was natural for McPhaul to look outside, to the Power 5 schools. Isn’t that what top recruits do?
“I was thinking, I should get away, get away from the city, see some new things,” McPhaul said. “But everyone doesn’t always need new.”
Probably by the middle of July, McPhaul said, she wasn’t sure if she was in the right place.
“Because I’m a city kid, I’m a Philadelphia kid, West Philly,” McPhaul said this week. “Down in Virginia, you’re surrounded by nothing, by mountains. Nothing to do. It wasn’t really for me.”
It wasn’t simple homesickness.
“I felt like at home they love me,” McPhaul said. “It’s bigger than basketball. It wasn’t just about basketball.”
As for when she’ll get in a game, the rules say she missed a deadline to be eligible this year after transferring. Technically, those two Virginia Tech summer classes were part of the 2021-22 academic year.
Here’s a point to consider: McPhaul was at Virginia Tech early because that’s the way Division I sports operates these days. Get there early, start working out, take a couple of classes. Maybe the NCAA will grant an eligibility waiver if it weighs the fact that McPhaul left before Virginia Tech’s non-athlete freshman class showed up for orientation.
It’s tricky, even in these times when students are allowed to transfer and not sit out, since such a precedent would allow free agency to continue even after students show up on campuses.
In her specific case, though … what’s the harm?
At some point, she’ll play for Temple. Anyone who packed inside the Palestra to see McPhaul lead West Catholic to the 2020 Philadelphia Catholic League title, scoring 30 points against Archbishop Wood as a junior, saw why Dawn Staley and others offered scholarships.
“For us to get that caliber of kid, one of the best players in Philly to actually stay home — doesn’t happen a lot,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said.
McPhaul wants to be a star.
“I felt like the city needs somebody like me here, to be here, to actually perform,” McPhaul said.
When she was in Virginia, what did she miss?
“Like, the love,” McPhaul said. “There might be a lot of bad things going on. But the love — in Philly, they love the athletes, especially if you’re a girl. That support I got at home, I always felt it.”
Shepard was her rec center, at 57th and Haverford. From a young age, older guys would tell her she could be as good as them, to just stay with it.
“When the game is on the line, and the game is big, Destiney always shows,” Cardoza said. “Her best games are games that matter the most.”
A 5-foot-8 combo guard, McPhaul averaged 20.9 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 5.7 assists as a senior when West Catholic won the state 3A title. By then, she had committed to Virginia Tech.
“I think she’s the type of kid who can make her teammates better,’’ Cardoza said. “I think that’s her real strength. She has a vision, a real court vision.”
“People will see somebody with a chip on her shoulder, willing to do whatever I need to do to help my team get a win,” McPhaul said. “Be the best version of me.”
The real version, for somebody who believes home is where her heart is.