Author: Noel Hemphill
Basketball family inspires Brandon’s success on court
Seattle native and kinesiology major Makenzie Brandon possesses the honors, skills and experience that made her an easy choice for a repeat team captain of the Occidental Tigers women’s basketball team. Starting out this year with a D3hoops.com Preseason Second Team All-American selection, Brandon has new goals and expectations of herself to keep the momentum going in her final year in a Tiger uniform.
A new year and a new coach, Anahit Aladzhanyan, allow lifetime player Brandon to come into this year with a new outlook. Instead of feeling burnt out, Brandon feels refreshed and hungry for game play.
“We have a whole new energy, everyone really feels revitalized with a new system in to place. The structure we have this year is kind of monumental – we are told to just go out and play,” Brandon said.
Playing basketball is all she knows. Brandon recalls her father and two brothers as her first opponents on the court, as they kindled the beginning of her love of sport and inspired her to continue playing into her college years, just like her dad.
“I have pictures of myself dribbling when I was two years old, but basically I have been playing for as long as I remember. It’s all I knew. It would stand out for me not to do it,” Brandon said.
Though Brandon’s choice to keep up playing basketball may have been normal, her caliber of play has proven to be something more. The SCIAC Player of the Year and multiple-time All-SCIAC selection is noted as a standout athlete by her coach and teammates.
“Mak brings it everyday. She has a great attitude, is a natural leader and works hard. She is just such a pleasure to work with,” said Aladzhanyan via email.
Liz Little, one of the Lady Tigers’ five senior leaders, mirrored these sentiments.
“Makenzie makes everyone around her better, on and off the court, all the time. Makenzie is someone you want on your team, because she is going to fight for you and have your back. She’s a player. She’s a warrior. I am incredibly lucky to call her my teammate and best friend,” said Little via email.
Brandon has only good things to say about her team, which she jokingly calls eclectic. While her professional athlete inspiration is Lisa Leslie, she looks to her dad and teammates to keep her motivated.
“The team is the best thing. These random people would probably not meet without basketball, and its really fun,” said Brandon.
Brandon accepts her important role on the team by believing in her own abilities. She is confident in herself that she can find a way to score and stay fully in the game even in difficult situations.
“I am able to recognize my weaknesses and work on them. I’m good at the mental game. I am going to have to take a big leadership role as we have to big time players overseas right now. I want to help motivate my teammates and keep focused to accomplish my goals,” said Brandon.
These goals are no small feat. Brandon wants this year’s team to get farther in post season play than any other Occidental basketball team, with hopes to get to the third round of NCAA playoffs. Brandon knows that each game along the way will have to be well thought out, starting the night before any competition.
“The night before the game I try to visualize what I am going to do, all successful, positive things. The actual game comes and I try not to think too much. I try to react and play naturally. I try to have fun with it and let the game open up on its own,” said Brandon.
Keeping fun in the game has made Brandon’s experience at Occidental memorable and is an essential part of winning. During team breakfasts of waffles and eggs, Brandon marvels at the team she calls amazing that pushes each other to be challenged and excel.
“I have so much fun. There are so many great memories within it,” said Brandon.
Many expect that this year will result in some of Brandon’s best playing yet. From her first season earning a First Team All-SCIAC award to scoring a career high 36 points in one game last season on her way to a First Team All-West Region selection, Brandon’s statistical improvement points to another exciting year for the Tigers. Thus far, Brandon has already nearly matched her career high point scoring with 32 points in a loss to Whitworth College.
“I have a feeling she is going to have a record-setting year,” said Aladzhanyan.
The Tigers currently have only one win in their three games played, and look to improve as they open up SCIAC play on Thursday when they host Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
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