Centre Basketball: Versatile Bridget Winstead becoming a leader for Colonels
Centre College senior guard Bridget Winstead (3) has returned from a knee injury and is stepping up to become a leader for the Colonels this season. (Mike Marsee)
Winstead is a versatile athlete who can not only shoot the jumper but can also shoot with either a golf club or a gun, as well as a dedicated student whose interests range from politics to cooking and whose dream job is to write for Southern Living magazine.
The Centre College junior is also a passionate basketball player, one who has returned from injury just in time to fill a key role with for a team chasing a conference championship.
The Colonels are 3-1 entering the start of Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference play Friday at Millsaps, and Winstead has been a big part of their success so far this season.
“I’ve actually surprised myself with my shooting percentage. I guess all that summer work paid off,” she said. “But I know my role.”
Winstead’s role is to take 3-point shots — “only when it’s open, not contested; I get in trouble when it’s contested” — to help Centre’s other two guards get open and to play sound defense.
Centre coach Wendie Austin-Robinson said she couldn’t be happier with the way Winstead has done her job.
“She’s just doing great. She’s really stepped into her starting role, and she’s been very mature and a positive leader for us. She’s shooting the ball extremely well, and she’s one of our best defenders,” Austin-Robinson said. “And I don’t know of anybody that works harder on our team.”
Winstead has come all the way back from a knee injury that derailed her sophomore season to become Centre’s most prolific 3-point shooter — she is 13 for 27 — and one of four double-digit scorers on the team at 11.5 points per game.
In addition, she has become a vocal leader at a time when her team happened to need one. The strongest seniors are not necessarily the loudest players, so Winstead has done her part to fill that void.
“Maggie (Prewitt’s)¿very quiet, and Lauren Huter’s very quiet. I’ve become a vocal leader on the court. I don’t know if they listen to me, but the fact that I’m trying is something that I didn’t do last year, which, I think, as an upperclassman is something that I’ve taken hold of,” she said.
“She’s not scared to speak up and hold her team accountable, and she can do that because she holds herself accountable,”¿Austin-Robinson said. “She’s more of a vocal leader than I ever thought she’d be.”
The Centre coach also learned something about Winstead’s toughness when she tried to keep playing after suffering a medial collateral ligament strain in her right knee in a midseason game last year.
Winstead had been a key contributor off the bench, but her minutes declined sharply after the injury, and she missed seven of the final 13 games and finished with an average of 2.6 points.
“She’s one of the toughest kids we have on the team,” Austin-Robinson said. “She tried to finish last year, and she played some minutes, but she was not 100 percent.”
Winstead said her knee hurt when she was on the court, but it also hurt her to be on the bench.
“It was hard. Sitting and watching your team on the sideline is borderline torture,” she said. “But I think that it makes me not take practice time for granted any more, because after you have to sit out and watch, it makes you realize the limited time you have left out on the court with some of your best friends.
“I know it sounds cliched, but it’s true:¿You want to get on the court and get better every day, because you’re not going to have that again. That’s one less day to work on, so you want to take advantage of it.”
Rest finally helped Winstead’s knee heal after the season — she calls the brace she wears on her knee “a placebo” — and now she starts in the backcourt alongside preseason All-American Prewitt and senior Alyson Burke, the team’s 3-point percentage leader.