Kennady McQueen of North Summit verbally committed to University of Utah
As far back as Kennady McQueen can remember, her family has always been a basketball family.
Her mother, Melanee, was a Utah Runnin’ Ute in the late ‘80s. Her father, Cory, was a considerable talent as a high school player, as was her sister, Haylee. Her brother, Keegan, played for the University of Montana Western Bulldogs. All of them played for North Summit High School.
But Kennady stands out even among them.
The 5’11” junior guard has a vision for the court her mother says she never had. According to Braves coach Jerre Holmes, she has excellent ball handling skills, can drive to the basket, and “works her guts out defensively.”
She currently averages 20 points per game with the Braves.
Earlier this month, all those attributes and the work that went in to building them paid off as she weighed her collegiate options – a group of 15 schools that included Gonzaga University and Texas Tech University – and chose to don the crimson of her mother’s alma mater.
“I think it’s just crazy,” Kennady said of verbally committing to Utah. “When I’d do workouts or go running and I didn’t want to do anymore I’d think, ‘for Utah,’ so finally it’s come true. It’s really satisfying.”
For those that have known her long, the question hasn’t been whether she would play Division 1 ball – just which color her jersey would be.
Melanee, who has been an assistant coach at North Summit on and off for close to two decades, said she thought Kennady could one day play D1 since around eighth grade, and has showed a love of the game long before that.
“From the time she was little, she was coming to practice and she wanted to be the manager,” Melanee said.
She even had a shirt that said “manager” on the back, her mother said, and would get agitated if the players filled their own water bottles instead of letting her do her job.
Holmes, who is also North Summit’s superintendent, remembers Kennady following her older brother, Keegan, and sister, Haylee, as they played for the Braves.
“Whenever there was a timeout or halftime, she’s grabbing a ball to get out there and get a shot off,” he said. “It’s just been a part of her. It’s just been a natural setting for her to be in.”
In middle school, Cory, coached her, including after practice when she and him would spend an hour shooting baskets in their hometown of Henefer.
“I have no doubt that nobody has shot more baskets in her little church in Henefer than she has,” Holmes said.
Then, in spring of 2017, she joined the Colorado Premier, a club team based in Grand Junction, Colorado, competing in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League as a shooting guard.
“Starting in March, it gets really busy,” Melanee said. “She will go to Colorado every weekend for practice. They meet in Salt Lake and will drive to Grand Junction. And this being part of an out-of-state team, it is, it’s hard for school. They’ll do skill sessions twice a week in Orem that she has to get to.”
For the Braves, Kennady is a standout point guard. She earned varsity time as a freshman, contributing 10 points a game, then started her sophomore season averaging, 19.2 points per game.
Holmes and Melanee both say one of Kennady’s greatest strengths is her unselfishness as a player. She distributes the ball well, even when the competition doesn’t call for it.
“There are so many times when she can just dominate a game, but she makes sure to keep her teammates included,” Melanee said. “Which is so important because if you don’t keep them included they will stop playing with her.”
Her attitude and ability has also drawn praise from Keith Van Horn, former Ute and NBA player, who coaches her club team.
“She never once complained or asked for more time even though he was playing great. She just showed up and competed every single day,” Horn said over Twitter.
I honestly wish every parent of a youth athlete would read this. This is what it is all about. Proud to coach this young lady and am proud that she’s a Ute. #utes #chopwoodcarrywater @ColoradoPremier @UTAHWBB @KennadyMcqueen pic.twitter.com/JbtsU6PKcW
— Keith Van Horn (@Coach_Keith44) January 4, 2019
Over the last year, letters from colleges seeking to bring Kennady to their program have poured into North Summit’s administrative office.
“The mail that she got at the high school, they about had to get her her own box,” Holmes said.
“She just took it in stride, and yet I know how badly she wants to go compete at the next level.”
Kennady said it has always been a dream of hers to compete in college, but to play at Utah was the best possible outcome.
She visited Spokane, Washington to tour Gonzaga first, but then Utah made an offer, and Kennady consulted her mother about her options.
“I just told her you have to go where you’re going to fit in and be the most happy,” Melanee said. “I think when it came down to it, it’s a big time program, and this way her family can still watch her play. I had a great experience. It’s hard, but I would do it all over again.”
Melanee played for the Utes from 1987 to 1991, during which time she earned 183 steals, 305 assists and held a record for most steals during a game at 9, which stood through 2004.
During her junior year she averaged 8.2 points a game as a guard.
“It was hard,” Melanee said, reflecting on her time at Utah. “That’s what I told her. As a freshman, it wouldn’t matter where you went, it’s going to be challenging.”
The competition level is higher in the Pac 12, and skills that dazzle at the high school level are the average.
“You get to college and everybody is as good as you are,” Melanee said. “But if you’re willing to put in the work and the time, it works out for you. And that’s one thing she’s never been afraid of; is putting in the extra work.”
In addition to both Kennady and Melanee going to North Summit, and with a strong possibility of both having attended the University of Utah, both could also share the distinction of owning a Utah high school state basketball title.
The Braves girls team hasn’t won a championship since Melanee’s senior year, but this season is shaping up to break the long drought for the Braves.
The team is currently 11-1, having defeated much larger teams like Class 4A Green Canyon (also 11-1), and Highland High School of Pocatello, Idaho, (11-9), which has a enrollment of 1,500 students.
“We have some good competition between Kanab (10-2) and Beaver (11-2), but I think they are definitely beatable,” Kennady said. “I think we can win it, for sure.”
She is surrounded by a solid team, most of whom are juniors, so even if the team doesn’t take the title this season, Kennady will have another shot in 2020.
“Sometimes I forget that,” Holmes said. “Then I get real excited to think that she and her classmates are back for another year. Now that the commitment has been made I think she will be able to relax more and not worry about who’s there to watch her. I think she’s only going to get better from here.”
Kennady is also eying a different title. “Utah’s never won a Pac 12 championship, so I’m hoping to be part of that when it happens,” she said.
She’s stepping out from a tradition of success, to a future of basketball that is so, so bright.
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