Gig Harbor native McKenzie Alton has always dreamed of playing Division I basketball. Now that dream is becoming a reality.
Alton, who played for two years at Gig Harbor High School, two years at Bellarmine Prep and took a gap year to play for IMG Academy in Florida, is on the Beaumont, Texas campus of Lamar University now and is anxious to get the season going.
Alton, a 5-foot-11 guard, was named to the All-Narrows 4A first team her senior season at Bellarmine Prep. She was a four-year starter at both Gig Harbor and Bellarmine.
“I had a couple options after high school, a couple Division II offers, but none that I really felt pushed towards,” Alton said. “I believe in praying a lot — I felt like none of them were what God was telling me to do.”
So she enrolled at IMG to work exclusively on her game at bolster her recruiting reach. That meant a lot of long, grueling days of basketball. But her game improved by leaps and bounds while at the Florida academy.
“It was one of the best experiences I had,” Alton said. “I just focused on basketball and that was a big game changer for me. It was really good. The coaches definitely pushed in practice.”
Alton finished the season as IMG’s leading scorer, 3-point shooter, rebounder and shot blocker.
“I was able to improve my shooting speed and just running speed, also,” Alton said. “I developed a faster shot and was more accurate. Being able to come into the gym and shoot for hours every day paid off. And I got into great shape from the amount of running and working out we did. We went from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. usually, so it was pretty much all day, every day.”
Her persistence drew the attention of Lamar head coach Robin Harmony and her staff.
They have a great coaching staff, great facilities and great teammates. It’s a really good place to be. Coach Harmony likes to push us and have a run-and-gun game.
McKenzie Alton, Lamar University shooting guard
“I was in contact with them and went on my visit and loved it,” Alton said. “They have a great coaching staff, great facilities and great teammates. It’s a really good place to be. Coach Harmony likes to push us and have a run-and-gun game.”
Harmony plans to use Alton at the shooting guard position for the Cardinals. Alton could see the floor in her first college season, if all goes well.
“I didn’t want to go somewhere and sit on the bench my first two years,” Alton said. “I wanted to come in and get playing time. They see me coming in and getting time.”
Lamar, which plays in the Southland Conference, took third last year in the conference, posting a 22-8 overall record and a 15-3 conference mark.
“The competition in the conference looks good, from what I’ve seen,” Alton said, “It’s a high-pace, up and down the court, fast basketball. We have a lot of potential of making it to the playoffs and being the league’s No. 1 team this year.”
Alton, who moved into her dorm last week and has started taking classes, plans to study business management at Lamar.