The four areas of Leader Development listed on the West Point Military Academy’s website are:
“Cadets learn to live honorably, lead honorably, and demonstrate excellence by following through the Character, Academic, Physical and Military programs.”
It’s an exclusive group of men and women who go to school there, not your everyday college experience, not your everyday college student.
On Friday, McKenzie Muse of Bryant, daughter of Ben and Kodi Muse, signed a national letter of intent to become a part of that exclusive group on a basketball scholarship.
Muse, a 6-2 swing player for the Lady Hornets said the Academy scouts saw her when she was playing AAU games in the summer.
“They ended up recruiting me,” she related. “I went for an official visit and once I set foot on campus, I knew it was the place for me.
“The opportunities it provides, the ability to serve my country, and play at the D-I level, it’s just unmatched,” Muse emphasized. “You can’t compete with it.”
“We do a lot of signings here at Bryant High School and, obviously, every kid that signs is unique,” said Lady Hornets coach Brad Matthews. “Every kid has their own path to where they get, and McKenzie certainly has hers.
“From a tremendous student (4.0 GPA) to soon-to-be Division I basketball player, fighting through an ACL tear her sophomore year through some tendon issues last year, she continues to work hard,” he noted. “She’s just a tremendous basketball player. I’ve been blessed to coach her.
“But, more importantly in this case, our country’s getting not just a good basketball player at their Academy but a tremendous kid,” the coach asserted. “She always puts her teammates first, always wants what’s best for the team over what’s best for her and has been a great example throughout the last three years.”
“I was looking at some local schools,” Muse acknowledged. “Like Harding I was really interested in. But I never felt the connection I felt with West Point.”
“She’s had to fight through some adversity, and she’s handled it in a way that serves her well and will serve her well in the future and at the Academy,” Matthews reiterated regarding her injuries.
“I went to a lot of physical therapy,” she agreed. “It was a lot of extra work. It was hard. It was definitely a difficult process, mentally and physically. But I’m better for it. Now I’m stronger.”
Still, she wears an industrial-strength brace on that leg.
“Just security,” she allowed. “If it can even protect me just a half a percentage, I’d like to have it.”
Then, she said something key to her personality, “I’m healthy now. I don’t like to look at the past. I’m just trying to look forward.”
All that rehab she’s done in the past, however, may lead to an important part of her future, her career.
“I definitely want to go into the medical field,” Muse related. “Physical Therapy’s what I’m really into right now but I’ll see where it leads because, like I said, there are so many opportunities. You never know where I might end up.”
With her education at West Point, in New York, Muse will have a five-year obligation to serve in the Army. With her degree, it will be a position as an officer.
The Muses moved to Bryant from Maumelle before McKenzie’s freshman season. She has played since she was in the first grade.
“But I didn’t realize I wanted to play college basketball until the fifth,” she related. “I started playing AAU and that’s when it all started.”
“As a basketball player, male or female, if you can play inside and out — a lot of people talk about it but not everybody can do it,” Matthews said. “For her to be able to do both I think shows the fact that she wanted to do both and when McKenzie wants to do something — there are very few kids that are more focused and purposeful in what they do than McKenzie. I think it shows in her continual basketball development.”
“My team relies on me knocking down 3’s and, since I’m the tallest player on the team, I’ve got to be a presence in the paint, get offensive rebounds,” Muse said. “That’s my role this year. Last year, I was more of a guard, but we lack height this year.”
The Lady Hornets’ 2019-20 season is just about to get officially under way. They played a benefit scrimmage against E-STEM on Thursday night and won handily.
“We’re definitely a lot more experienced than some of our competitors so we’re hoping to lock down a conference championship then, hopefully, go far in State,” Muse stated. “We’ll see how far we make it.”