Kelsey McKinnis immediately provided plenty of points when she entered the University of Puget Sound women’s basketball program four years ago.
It’s kind of her thing. She possesses a quick trigger, long range and the consistency to provide a scoring punch. With two games to play, her 1,367 career points are only 18 shy of Kilty Keaton for fifth-most in team history. Her legacy as one the program’s best scorers is safe.
School records and accolades humble McKinnis, but she hopes they aren’t the only things she is remembered for. She would rather be known for what was written on a piece of paper taped to her back.
McKinnis earned it during a team bonding exercise last month. Players wrote what they believe their teammates bring to the Loggers on a piece of paper, then taped it to each other’s backs.
“On mine, someone wrote they know that I’m going to bring it 100 percent, no matter what the score or no matter how much time is on the clock,” McKinnis said. “I think that sits at home with me so much more than points on the board – recognizing that I love basketball and that I’m here and work hard because I enjoy it.
“If I could choose, I hope I would be remembered for the passion and the love I have for the game.”
That passion extends beyond the court. Her name is written throughout the UPS records – on top-10 lists of all-time scoring, 3-point shooting and free throws – but those around the university know there is a lot more on McKinnis’ plate than basketball.
When she isn’t working her way up the Loggers’ all-time scoring ladder, she is studying her major – exercise science – or giving campus tours to prospective students. McKinnis is also an officer on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, a member of the Greek Life sorority and Exercise Science Club. She pushes her team to attend every campus sporting event – even texting teammates to accompany her to UPS lacrosse matches in the freezing cold.
“I assume she doesn’t get much sleep,” said teammate Sarah Stewart. “I don’t know what her secret is.”
In the eyes of associate director of athletics Robin Hamilton, McKinnis is the prototype for what a student-athlete should look like at Puget Sound.
“She has really filled the bill on that,” Hamilton said. “If you were going to design a student-athlete, she would fit that role really well. She is exactly the complete student-athlete that we try to attract to Puget Sound.”
The athletic department created a pamphlet for its campaign to expand and enhance the athletic facilities at Memorial Fieldhouse. Hamilton said they contacted McKinnis to pose for the cover photo.
So there she is, wearing jeans and flip flops and holding a basketball next to the title, “One of a Kind,” with a box below describing how the school’s athletics and aquatics center attracts high-performing student-athletes.
“She is the face of this campus – very popular, very friendly, very supportive,” Hamilton said. “She has that bulldog look in her eye on the court, but she is always quick with a hello and a smile when off it. Everyone around the department knows Kelsey McKinnis.”
McKinnis said she wants to attend graduate school to be an athletic trainer, but is going to take next year off because she didn’t want to fill out applications and go through interviews while she focused on her final basketball season.
She made that decision before the season started, when she faced high expectations following her junior year for taking the Loggers to the postseason for the third straight year and averaging a team-best 14.2 points per game. But UPS lost five straight Northwest Conference games last month, which severely hurt its postseason chances, and for the first time in her four years, McKinnis knows the date her season will end.
It’s the date her career ends, too.
“There was a lot of expectations on me this year,” McKinnis said. “We made the playoffs the last three years, so your senior year everyone expects you to make it back. You never expect you are going to be sixth in the conference. Saturday is going to be a very emotional day for me, but I’m just going into it with a positive outlook. I get the opportunity to finish my career at home, knowing it’s been such a wonderful ride here.”
Even though it’s ending, McKinnis will be remembered long after it – and not just for scoring points.
“Kelsey is not only a great player, but an amazing individual and leader,” said UPS coach Loree Payne. “She has worked incredibly hard to earn her success and accolades. Nobody deserves it more.”
“Being Division III, you aren’t here on scholarship, or getting paid to be here,” McKinnis said. “None of us are trying to get to the WNBA. We are here because we want to be here. I hope people see that this is something I really enjoy doing. I’ve really been reminding myself a lot lately of what a wonderful career I’ve had here. I’ve really enjoyed it.”