Player settles in new role

Senior guard McKenzie Petty gives team spark off the bench.

Every time senior guard McKenzie Petty puts on a game jersey, regardless of what team she’s playing on, it usually has one meaning — game time. The UTD emblem on the front of her jersey carries the same meaning, but now from a different perspective.

Petty was a three-year basketball varsity starter for Maypearl High School before coming to UTD, appearing in 88 games throughout that time span. She was a focal point on the team, playing multiple positions and seldom getting pulled out of games.

In her first two collegiate seasons, her role drastically changed. She understood that coming to UTD meant less playing time than she was accustomed to because she was joining an already established program, but it didn’t set in until it became a reality.

“I understood (my) role as a freshman, but at the same time I wasn’t satisfied with that role,” Petty said. “I didn’t want to accept the fact that freshmen sit the bench.”

In her first season, Petty played in 15 games averaging four and a half minutes of action per game. But she said that her lesser role didn’t take away any of the satisfaction she felt from winning the conference title and reaching the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

“I still felt I was a part of that because … my teammates had to practice against me,” she said. “Even though I wasn’t the lead role, the lead roles were better because they had to go against me.”

Like every other player on the team, Petty attended team practices, hit the weight room and knew the team’s offensive and defensive schemes. Role-players go through the rigors of a basketball season like any other player. They give a boost off the bench and fill in for teammates without having the team miss a beat, as was the case with Petty, who saw an expanded role after two players on the team failed to meet academic standards and were unable to finish out the season.

It wasn’t until her second year that Petty finally made her first collegiate start. She played in a total of 23 games, making two starts and logging 194 more minutes of game time than she did in her freshman season.

She said there is a definite psychological difference between starting and coming off the bench.

“In high school, I feel like (starting) definitely became a routine and it wasn’t such a big deal because I was so used to it, so I didn’t think anything of it,” Petty said. “My second year (of college) I got to start a couple games and it was definitely more nerve-wracking and scary. I was almost more comfortable coming off the bench than starting.”

But accepting her role doesn’t mean she isn’t looking for ways to see the floor more.

“We have team meetings about (minutes) and (the coaching staff) made it perfectly understood that every person on the team has a role and even if it’s not the star (role), you’re still needed for something else,” Petty said. “This year I had games where I’ve started and games where I sat. I actually did go and have a conversation with (Head coach Polly Thomason) and asked her, ‘What do I need to be doing to be playing?’”

Petty said that certain players match-up best for certain situations, especially during close games in crunch time where defense is put at a premium.

Being more offensive minded, Petty said she has made a concerted effort to be a more well rounded guard to be able to play and stay late in games. With two years of playing eligibility remaining, her goal remains being a prominent, consistent starting player for the team.

“I’m hoping for two more conference championships between then too,” she said.

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