|Lenoir City basketball player Michaela McFalls picks
Dave Link-Knoxville News Sentinel
Lenoir City High School rising senior Michaela McFalls embraces the challenge of being a student-athlete at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
It's a big reason the 6-foot forward committed Friday to play basketball for Air Force, which competes in the Mountain West Conference.
"While I'm there I'm going to be pushed," McFalls said Monday. "That will help me in my career. That's what will help me the most, how hard they push you and help you grow as a person."
McFalls went to a basketball camp at Air Force from June 17-18 after previously talking with its coaches. She had been contacted by several Ivy League and NCAA Division II schools about playing basketball, but knew Air Force was her destination when she got the offer.
"I already knew the coaches a little bit, and when I went to the camp out there I loved it," McFalls said. "I'm very excited. This is the best opportunity I could have."
McFalls, who has as a 3.9 GPA at Lenoir City, plans to study mechanical engineering at Air Force.
Last season, McFalls averaged 12 points and nine rebounds for Lenoir City, which went 14-15 and 6-8 in District 4-AAA.
"She's a hard-nosed kid and she's very good in the classroom," Panthers coach Tim Smith said. "School is very important to her. She's probably top 10 (among students) at Lenoir City. She wants to go into engineering, so this is a good opportunity for her."
McFalls, who plays AAU basketball for the Tennessee Fury, is glad to have her college decision made before her senior year of high school.
"I don't have to worry about trying to figure it out any more," she said. "It's an amazing opportunity and there's no way I could pass it up. It's a weight off my shoulders knowing what I'm going to do and I have a plan in order."
Part of her basketball plan this coming season is expanding her game. She has played center at Lenoir City but her natural position is a forward.
"This year we're going to try to move her where she's more of a power forward," Smith said. "She's a very aggressive player, very good at taking it to the basket. She's not so much of a back-to-the-basket player. She's better facing it.
"We're going to move her out to at least the free-throw line so she can attack the basket. She runs the floor really well and she has really quick speed to where we can play her as a power forward."
McFalls said she's ready for the position move.
"I'm hoping to do that, especially since I lack in size for a center," she said. "I'm hoping to make my game more dynamic and be able to do more things."