By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
McKenzie Akers feels like a big burden has been lifted. The Princeton High School point guard signed earlier this fall to play basketball at Marshall University. So far this season all she has done is help lead Princeton to a 4-0 start including two Mountain State Athletic Conference wins last week over Winfield and Nitro in which she averaged 25.5 points and seven assists.
Those numbers helped her claim the Bluefield Daily Telegraph/Pocahontas Coal Association female Player of the Week honors for the period of Dec. 10-15.
“I feel like a thousand pound weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I enjoy playing with my teammates,” Akers said. “I just love every minute of it. Thank God I know where I’m going (to college).”
Akers is one of seven seniors on the Tigerette team this year and her personal accomplishments are secondary to one goal she has.
“I want to go upstate,” Akers said. “I’m a senior and these girls are really important to me and team is first. I’d really like to go upstate before I leave.”
Akers’ sister Tesla, currently playing at Ferrum College, had that opportunity several years ago when she played for the Tigerettes and it is her older sister who gives McKenzie motivation.
“Words can’t even describe it (the inspiration from Tesla),” Akers said. “She played here and it’s motivation for me to go out there and be better than her one day.”
Basketball is a family affair for the Akers. Her father, Ernie coached her in AAU and youth basketball and helped shape her into the player she is today.
“He was hard on my butt all the time,” Akers said. “If I scored 50 points, he said, ‘Your defense was awful.’ There was always something. He has helped me to get to where I am, so I appreciate him being on my butt all the time.”
Debbie Ball, head coach of the Tigerettes, said Akers is the team leader and her play influences the other girls on the team.
“We look for McKenzie to be our leader on the floor and she basically is the quarterback,” Ball said. “The other girls obviously look to her for leadership and when she is out there, she makes the other players play better. I guess that’s what you want from somebody leading your team.”
A point guard, Akers not only scores plenty of points, but also gets the ball around to the others on the team.
“She’s really in control of what’s going on in our offense to the point where she basically utilizes the offense the best way she can,” Ball said. “It’s just fortunate that when she passes the ball we actually have people who can do a lot of scoring.”
Last week Akers scored 26 against Winfield and 25 against Nitro and had seven assists in both contests. She followed up those games with a 35-point effort Tuesday night against PikeView, playing just over two quarters.
Asked how she scores and gathers assists, Akers said, “My coaches are very hard on me and they get in my head to do what I need to do. I’m a point guard first, so it’s my job to get everybody else the ball. I guess I’m just lucky enough to get the opportunity to score as well.”
Headed to Marshall next season, Akers is exciting about becoming a member of the Thundering Herd and looks forward to not only basketball, but the entire college experience.
“I want to do the best I can with grades and I want to go up to Marshall and not sit the bench,” Akers said. “I want to go and contribute to the team and represent where I came from.”
— Contact Bob Redd at email@example.com.
BDT/PCA Player of the Week
Bland County - Alyssa Harris 14 points 16 rebounds vs. Eastern Montgomery.
Bluefield - Sheila Hopkins 14 points, Jessilyn Fullerton 14 points, Khadijah Brown 11 points vs. Librety.
Giles - Karli Beechler and Amber Badley 10 rebounds each vs. James Monroe.
Grundy - Savannah Charles 17 points vs. Tazewell.
James Monroe - Kayla Via 10 points vs. Giles; Kelsey Mann 14 points vs. Narrows, 14 vs. Mount View, 15 vs. George Wythe.
Montcalm - Leslie Kelley 12 points vs. Fayetteville, 11 vs. Meadow Bridge; Miranda Kendrick 16 points vs. Meadow Bridge.
Mount View - Gezelle Brown 13 points vs. River View; Ashleigh Belfiore 10 points vs. River View.
Narrows - Tiffany Perdue 20 points vs. Giles.
PikeView - Lyndsay Hatfield 22 points vs. Spring Valley, 15 vs. Lincoln County; Hope Nester 14 vs. Lincoln County.
Princeton - Miranda Mullins 22 vs. Nitro; Khadija Payne 12 points, 14 rebounds vs. Winfield.
Richlands - Brittany Allen 17 points vs. Chilowie, 25 vs. Lebanon.
River View - Chelsea Dobbs 13 points, 13 rebounds vs. Mount View, 17 points 28 rebounds vs. Independence.
Summers County - Avery Pivont and Shelby Smith 10 points vs. Shady Spring; Brandi Harris 18 points vs. Clay County.
Tazewell - Autumn Hash 16 points vs. Grundy; Taylor Catron 15 points, Whitney Saunders 14 points, Haley Christian 10 points, Karie Sapp 10 points vs. Bland County.