EDMONTON, Alta. (from MacEwan Griffins) – When Kerilynn MacLennan puts on her MacEwan Griffins women’s basketball jersey for the 108th time in an official Canada West or Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference contest this Saturday night, she knows that it will be for the last time.
Senior Night always comes too fast for student-athletes, and it’s no different for MacLennan – who joins teammate Paige Knull in receiving special recognition following Saturday’s contest against Trinity Western (5 pm MST, Atkinson Gym). The teams will also meet on Friday at 6 pm MST.
The Winnipeg product has had a university experience full of memories that she will cherish a lifetime.
“(It’s going to be) very, very emotional,” said MacLennan. “Paige and I were joking that we might just leave at half-time because it’s going to be so emotional.
“Definitely thankful for all the support I’ve had over the years. I knew it was going to come to an end, but it’s going to be crazy leaving basketball because I don’t know what my life will be without basketball. I’ve been playing since I was five. It’ll be quite the transition, but it will be really, really emotional.”
MacLennan plans to stay involved in the game by playing women’s league next season and perhaps one day becoming a coach. But there’s no substitute for putting on that Griffins jersey, so she’ll be cherishing the team’s final weekend of the 2017-18 Canada West season.
“My fondest memories? Probably travelling with the team and learning what it’s like to actually be on a team,” she said. “With my team, being a family away from home, they were the ones I had to go to. Having three different coaches in five years (Rob Poole, Dave Oldham and current MacEwan bench boss Katherine Adams) was quite a transition, but Paige Knull and I have transitioned with each other.”
MacLennan initially came to Edmonton with her Oak Park Secondary high school team for a tournament at Harry Ainlay high school. Out of that, Alberta Pandas head coach Scott Edwards recruited her, but with little room on the roster, she ended up at MacEwan, which was still competing in the ACAC in 2013. The Griffins joined Canada West the following season, and she stayed.
“Coming in from Winnipeg as a young high school kid, I was playing behind Megan Wood and Kelly Fagan at the time,” said the 5-foot-10 forward. “They were my role models. I wanted to fill their shoes, and I was always playing behind them and working hard for my minutes. I could take what I could get.
“I spent a lot of time on the bench, taking a minute here and there. My fourth and fifth year I started to see more court time. I’ve definitely grown over the years and seen that it does take time to develop not only as a basketball player, but in basketball IQ on the court.”
MacLennan is currently seeing the biggest minutes of her university basketball career as a fifth-year veteran on a team chock-full of eight rookies. Not only is she draining key baskets for the team (averaging 6.7 points per game), she’s turned into a role model for the younger players.
“With Areena (Lewis’) injury and the rest being first-year forwards, it’s been crucial for her to show them the ropes,” said Adams. “This is what it’s like, and this is how tough you have to be. She’s really embraced that role and helped them come along.
“It’s been crucial, and she can be really proud of the legacy she’s left in helping these young players develop for the future of the program.”
Knull, meanwhile, is having another solid season as she, too, prepares to wrap up her career this weekend. Averaging 11.2 points a game to go with a team-leading 2.6 assists, she’s been crucial to the team’s success.
“Paige has brought so much to this program and has seen her role evolve and her leadership abilities,” said Adams. “She, too, has been one that’s been a great leader and set a great example for the number of young kids we have and is able to leave a legacy behind, set the tone and the standard for what these kids can expect.
“Obviously, you watch her play and (she brings) toughness, grittiness, work ethic and ability to defend – we’re going to miss that.”
Officially out of the playoffs after a loss to Alberta last weekend, the Griffins (4-14) are playing for the future this weekend against a Trinity Western team that has championship aspirations with a 14-4 record. Expect the scrappy Griffins to try for wins anyway.
“Unfortunately, playoffs aren’t an option, but I think it’s important that we end the season and year on a positive note, feeling like we’re still continuing to grow and … and keep talking about ways we can get better,” said Adams. “This is really just a stepping stone for the future.
“It might be a while before we formally play games again, but what we do now is important for the future to build on next year.”