BOISE – During her freshman season, Boise State’s Abby Muse received some interesting advice from longtime assistant coach Heather Sower.
“Stop blocking shots,” the 6-foot-3 junior forward said with a laugh. “Because I would block it out of bounds or I’d block it and the other team would get the ball.”
Muse didn’t exactly listen.
Not even three full seasons later – and still with two years of eligibility to go – Muse is already Boise State’s all-time blocks leader with 160 and counting. And on Thursday night in a 59-54 road win at Air Force, she had five blocks to break the school’s single-season record of 77. She is now at 82 and counting this season.
She’ll look to add to her records when the Broncos (14-14 overall, 9-6 Mountain West) host Utah State Saturday at 2 p.m. on Senior Day at ExtraMile Arena.
“She’s honestly an absolute beast,” junior guard Anna Ostlie said. “She can jump like crazy, her arms are ripped. She’s just an athletic beast, but also she’s smart. So when you add her athleticism with her IQ, this is what you see.”
Muse seemed destined to find some sort of thing to make her own.
Both of her parents were professional overseas players, after all. She was actually born in Portugal as a result. Her father Doug also made stops in Hungary and Slovakia during his playing career. He and her mother Amy played Division I basketball at UC Santa Barbara as well.
She is also the oldest of three children – all of whom are basketball players. Her sister Amanda is a McDonald’s All-American and UCLA commit out of Heritage High School in Brentwood, California – the same place where Muse received attention for her particular set of skills.
Muse was averaging 2.9 blocks per game by her senior season. It helped her become an ESPN four-star recruit and a top-100-ranked player nationally.
“My first memory of really blocking or at least being good at it, is probably around fifth grade,” Muse said. “I remember everyone being like, ‘She’s a shot blocker. Watch out!’ That was more so being lanky and taller than everyone.
“And then throughout middle school and then high school, I learned that there’s ways to do it and ways to not do it and ways without fouling.”
The unique skill set made her a hot commodity for a lot of teams, including the Broncos. Muse didn’t really think Boise was where her next stop would be before taking an official visit.
“I was like, ‘Idaho, eh,’ Muse said with a smile. “Who wants to live in Idaho?’
“But I remember we were driving downtown and I was looking around and just thinking to myself, ‘Wow, this is it.’”
Muse didn’t waste any time making herself at home.
She needed only seven games to put her name into the school’s record books. Muse set a new single-quarter record with five blocks in the second quarter to finish with seven in a 71-49 win over Air Force on Jan. 8, 2021.
Muse ended up appearing in all 23 games as a freshman and making 15 starts to finish second in the Mountain West with 40 blocks.
But behind the scenes, still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Muse admitted that year was actually really tough on her mentally.
“Just all of us really learned to grind it out that year with not really making friends because of the pandemic and being away from home for the first time,” Muse said.
Last year didn’t help either.
While Muse started every game and finished fourth in the conference with another 38 blocks and had a team-high 11 double-doubles, the Broncos went 8-21. It was their first losing season in a decade and the worst in Boise State coach Gordy Presnell’s 18-year tenure.
“Losing just affects everything. No one’s happy when you lose,” Muse said. “Not that you can’t feel accomplished, but it doesn’t feel as good if ultimately it didn’t help enough for the team.”
However, Muse is getting the best of both worlds this season.
Boise State has won five out of its last six games and is fifth place in the Mountain West standings – all while Muse is making history. She had no idea she was even approaching the 142-career blocks record held by the aptly-named Stephanie Block until a few weeks before it happened. Muse only found out because of Alex Semadeni, sports information director for the Boise State women’s basketball team.
“I didn’t want to know the numbers because I knew I would just hack everyone and Sower would be super mad at me,” Muse said with a laugh.
But as the 23-year-old record dwindled from around 25 when she found out, to just five going into the Nevada game on Feb. 2, it was impossible to keep it under wraps anymore.
Muse broke it with a swat on Nevada’s Victoria Davis. The junior point guard was going for a driving layin when Muse blocked her shot from behind with 4 minutes and 52 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Muse found out after the 62-58 win. But it didn’t really hit her until she was presented with a surprise tribute video and the record-breaking ball, which was now painted with her name, the No. 143 and the Feb. 2, 2023 date, before last Saturday’s home game against UNLV. Her mom was even in attendance.
“I can’t even really put it into words,” Muse said. “It’s really special just to make that big of an impact on this program. And to have my presence known in that way, and for something that I’ve excelled at for a really long time. It wasn’t really a moment of validation, because I give myself validation every day, but it was a really cool moment seeing everything come to fruition.”
She got another one of those moments with the single-season record – something she didn’t know about either. Muse passed the 77 blocks from Camille Redmon, who set it during the 2014-15 campaign, on Thursday night at the Air Force Academy.
Muse is long and athletic like Redmon, according to Presnell. But Muse and Brittney Kroon, who played for him 20 years ago at Seattle Pacific University, are the two best he’s ever coached.
“She’s got quite the upside,” Presnell said. “She’s just scratching the surface. … She’s made great improvements, maturity wise in her game through the years. And hopefully, we’ll get more and more. She wants to learn. She’s open minded and has just gotten better and better.”
Muse’s 82 blocks are the third-most in the nation this season. She also ranks fifth in the country with 2.93 blocks per game. That has her alongside the likes of Stanford’s Cameron Brink, who is an NCAA champion, an All-American and a Pac-12 Player of the Year. ESPN had her ranked as the sixth-best player in the country heading into the season.
“It is crazy and it is surreal, but at the same time, I have these numbers for a reason, too,” Muse said. “I do this on a daily basis just like all these other players who are doing that and are elite at that skill.”
She’s even wreaking havoc at practice. Very rarely does a teammate get a shot by her inside the paint. But it’s done with a purpose, especially with a core group that’s primarily made up of freshmen.
“She’ll block someone and go, ‘That can’t happen,’” Ostlie said. “That just explains Abby. She’s got your back, but she’s going to hold you accountable.”
While blocking has always been what’s gotten her notoriety, Muse’s talents on the court extend well beyond that. She leads the team in rebounding with 235 and needs just six more to put herself in the top-5 in single-season history at Boise State. The record is 289 held by Karla Meier.
Muse recently just passed Sower on the all-time career rebounding list. She is already in the top 20 in Boise State history with 577 boards and counting. Muse, who still has two years left of eligibility, needs just 58 more rebounds to put herself in the top-10 . The all-time leader is Meier with 1,025.
Muse is also first in steals (20) and free throws made (58), while being second in scoring at 9.4 points per game. She sits just 26 back of junior forward Elodie LaLotte for the team lead.
“Abby now is able to fill a state sheet,” Presnell said. “She’s always messing around in the double-double park.”
Which might be more to Sower’s liking?
“I think about that every now and then,” Muse said with a grin. “We’ve come a long way. I think I can block them now.”