Basketball has been good to Makenzie Cann. Real good.
It’s given her the chance to travel – she was in Missoula, Mont., and Pullman, Wash., over the weekend on a road trip with her University of Kentucky teammates – and she has shown her game nationwide on ESPN.
She’s gotten to play the game in the NCAA Tournament just 30 miles from home.
To many, it would seem like a dream, but reality has staggered Cann more than once. She’s gotten up stronger every time.
It’s been a story of how she lives her deep Christian faith in her everyday life.
“It’s how I hope people view me,” Cann says. “I would hope that is the impression people have of me. How I got here is God’s story.”
Cann has been blessed with extraordinary gifts that allowed her to dominate opponents on the basketball court through high school. She’s always been tall, standing at 6-foot-1 now, and possessed the hand-eye coordination that made her one of Kentucky’s top high school shooters until she graduated in 2014.
Along the way, her athletic ability was such that she commanded some college interest from soccer coaches until they learned that basketball was the name of her game.
But the biggest names in women’s college basketball did not flock to Lawrenceburg while Cann was firing up three-pointers at a rate that put up over 2,200 points in five years – second most in Anderson history to her teammate, Eriel McKee. Fans that watched her extensively saw a deadly shooter with the court savvy to make the right pass and the tenacity to make the play most thought could not be made.
The big time coaches saw a big guard who was a step or two slow.
Cann ended up at Cincinnati, the biggest name to offer a basketball scholarship but a program miles from the Top 25. She had a solid year in the Queen City, but her heart was 75 miles south.
Her blood bled blue and prompted her to take a chance at proving the critics wrong and enroll at Kentucky.
“Obviously, I didn’t get those huge offeres or wasn’t highly-recruited,” Cann remembers. “I wouldn’t say I was the underdog, but I was kind of the underdog.”
An underdog fighting like a bulldog, Cann quickly made an impression after walking on to the basketball team at Kentucky. The impression was major as Cann earned a full scholarship not long after the move. She started three games and got starter’s minutes as UK, a team depleted by transfers and player dismissals, did not have enough scholarship players to even practice. The Wildcats finished 22-11 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
A big guard but being the second tallest player on the Wildcat team a year ago, Cann was often forced to play out of position, pushing and shoving with players much bigger and more experienced playing on the block.
“The skill sets we had last year, I was shocked, but not shocked,” Cann says of the day Wildcat coach Matthew Mitchell called upon her to be a big time presence in the post. “I do have the ability to rebound and do some other things. It was really a compliment to Coach Mitchell because he believed in me. Ever since I have been here, he has told me I am more than a shooter. He doesn’t see me as a shooter. He doesn’t put me in that box.
UK is 4-0 heading into Wednesday’s game with Morehead State. Cann has started all four games at guard and is averaging 12 points a game.
And she’s happy. Real happy.
“You will probably see me in the post some but that’s not my official role,” Cann says. “I will do anything to help.”
She’s listed as a senior, but has one more year of eligibility after sitting out a season following her transfer from Cincy. Cann is on track to receive her degree in Integrated Strategic Communications in May, but says she probably won’t make a decision about returning until after the season.
She could transfer again to start graduate studies and be immediately eligible, but Cann is taking the wait and see approach. Her minor is in Animal Science and she wants to pursue a career as a veterinary technician.
Those who have known Cann since she burst on the Anderson County scene as a middle school basketball player would not be surprised to learn that Cann wants to work with animals. Around Lawrenceburg, she was often seen with her Golden Retriever, Raffy.
“Raffy has a brother now, Benny,” Cann smiles as she talks about her Australian Shepherd.
She says she also has some rabbits in the house she shares with several friends from Lawrenceburg. “It’s my small farm with me in Lexington,” she laughs.
Cann could transfer to another school and immediately be eligible next year but she’s happy in Lexington.
“I could do that but it’s not the route Im looking for now,” Cann says. “I have no problems here and I love it here. I’m really considering doing vet tech and that is not offered here. It all depends on if I change my mind. … It’s a litle complicated.”
Cann’s college basketball career has proven to her life is complicated, but she draws on her faith and her favorite Scripture verse, John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.”
“With all the times now and all the chaos, that verse is just comforting,” Cann says. “He’s already got it under control!”
Cann firmly believes that and believes that story of her life is part of God’s greater plan.
“I think (John 16:33) really helped my perspective,” she says. “Basketball is a huge part of my life, but it’s just a game. There is more to life than basketball. It’s about impacting people. It’s how you live your life.
“Basketball is just a platform to show who God is and what He has done in my life.”