The first time Maddie Campbell met San Pasqual High girls basketball coach Trae Harrison, she told him one of her dreams was to play in the Pac-12 Conference.
“He told me I wasn’t ready,” recalled Campbell, then a freshman.
Harrison accentuated that appraisal with a nickname for her.
“He told me I was Pac-1 at the moment,” Campbell said, laughing.
The first order of business was for the 5-foot-4 Campbell to gain strength for the future at San Pasqual and beyond.
So grudgingly she joined 24 Hour Fitness.
And threw herself into weightlifting, working mostly on upper-body strength.
“It smells inside weight rooms,” the point guard said. “At first, I hesitated about doing it.
“The last thing I wanted were muscles showing through my shirt.
“I love being a girly girl and I was afraid I wouldn’t look cute anymore, but basketball is my passion.”
So she went to the gym and kept going because she wanted to go, not because she had to go.
Campbell’s new-found strength took her from averaging 7.6 points a game as a freshman to 12.3 last year to 22.3 this year.
“She’s Pac-6 right now,” Harrison said of Campbell. “She whined a little when I sent her to the weight room, but now she’s introduced her teammates to weights for a 30-minute session before most practices.”
Campbell christened her junior season with a 34-point game that included six rebounds and six assists in a 67-37 win over Rancho Buena Vista. She scored 18 points in the third quarter.
“I’ve always been motivated in the classroom, so I got to a point where I started treating the weights as another assignment for class,” Campbell said. “I took it step by step. I was sore all the time.
“I look much stronger now. I feel so much stronger. No one can rip the ball out of my hands now.
“Basketball is all about strength. It’s everything.”
Campbell was born in New Jersey before the family moved to Escondido; Bellevue, Wash.; Beaverton, Ore.; and back to Escondido.
She was in sixth grade and older sister Lizzie was playing basketball at San Pasqual.
Maddie was there, too.
“I was the girl playing on the sidelines before games and shooting 3s at halftime,” Maddie said. “I couldn’t wait to get to San Pasqual, so I told Dad (Paul) that I wanted to play basketball at San Pasqual, too.
“He said we would stay put for a while.”
Maddie played her freshman year on the varsity team with Lizzie, who was a senior in the 2016-17 season.
In her first two seasons as an Eagle, Campbell has helped the team go 16-13 in 2016-17 and 19-10 last year.
Thus far, the Eagles are off to a 4-4 start.
A former soccer player, Campbell finally ditched the pitch for basketball in sixth grade.
Simply put, she loved basketball way more than she liked playing soccer.
Her favorite basketball player is Kobe Bryant because she would sit on the couch with her dad and watch Lakers games as a young girl.
“I saw Kobe develop through the weight room,” she said. “We have no real posts on this team so I’ve had to guard a few posts.
“They are surprised when I start bumping them around because refs don’t call much of that action in the paint.”
Campbell’s goal, along with playing in the Pac-12, is to major in political science with an eye toward becoming a lawyer.
“I’m not sure what kind of lawyer I want to be,” Campbell said. “That’s why I’ve taken speech and debating classes.
“I love to talk and I’ll argue with anyone about anything.”
And now she’s strong enough to really make her point.