“Beach Body by KC,” the Whitworth women’s basketball players called it.
The off-season conditioning program was the brainchild of guard KC McConnell, who conceived and perfected the idea even while she was playing varsity tennis and pursuing an honors-filled double major in kinesiology and education.
That kind of energy is just one reason Whitworth basketball coach Helen Higgs appreciates McConnell, a senior from Clarkston whose contributions to the program go far beyond her 1,581 points.
“She makes me look a lot smarter,” Higgs said. “In our whole team, she’s instilled that competitive nature.”
Competitiveness is second nature for McConnell, who forged it in the family backyard with her older brother Dustin.
“He never took it easy on me,” KC said. “There would be times when I would just beg him to let me score a couple baskets, but he never let up.”
After Dustin moved on to a successful basketball career Whitworth, KC and her parents, Denise and Larry, made the trek to Spokane to watch him play. By her senior year, she had few doubts about her college destination.
“I knew they had a good basketball program, I liked the girls on the team and Whitworth is so strong academically,” McConnell said.
McConnell made an immediate impact in the Whitworth Fieldhouse and in the Northwest Conference. She played in all 28 games as a freshman, averaging 8.8 points and 4.4 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from 3-point range.
As a sophomore, she started all 29 games and scored almost 15 points a game to help the Pirates to 28-1 record and a postseason run that didn’t end until the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Last year she was an All-NWC first-team selection after scoring a team-leading 16.5 points a game and hitting the 1,000-point career mark.
This year, she’s trending even higher, averaging 19.6 points – second in the conference – and 6.5 rebounds. Earlier this month, McConnell moved into third place in the school career scoring list.
Says Higgs: “It’s nice, knowing that you have someone who doesn’t mind carrying the load. … Other teams will try to deny her, to keep the ball out of her hands, but she always finds a way to get open.”
“You can’t not find her.” Higgs said.
The Pirates, who finished 15-10 overall and in fourth place in the NWC, will look to McConnell again on Thursday night in Newberg, Oregon. That’s when Whitworth faces second-ranked and unbeaten George Fox in a NWC semifinal game.
As the games – and her career – wind down, McConnell said the time at Whitworth has gone by “in four blinks” – one for each year.
“And even though I consider myself a pretty competitive person, the one thing I’m going to take away is the team and friendships we’ve created – I know I’ll be friends with them for the rest of my life,” McConnell said.
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