Senior basketball player McKenzie Stanford left her mark in the Oklahoma Christian University record books when she became one of two women in school history to earn All-American honors in two unrelated sports, basketball and track, last spring.
Earlier this month, the 6-foot forward joined yet another prestigious group of athletes on campus.
On Jan. 5, Stanford became one of Oklahoma Christian’s top-10 scorers in program history and, with a career-high 31 points and 18 rebounds against the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith last Thursday, she moved into 9th place on the top-10 list with a career 1,489 points.
“It’s an honor to be up there with some of the best players who have ever come through the program,” Stanford said. “If you had asked me my freshman year if I ever thought this was possible, I would have said absolutely not.”
The Sports, Wellness and Recreation major from Perkins, OK, heard of Oklahoma Christian through one of her teammates after she moved from Cushing, OK, to Perkins High School her junior year.
“OC came to one of my games, asked my teammate about me and I ended up coming on a visit and signing that day,” Stanford said. “Until then, I was still up in the air about whether I really wanted to come here or not, but as I was walking around on campus it was just so homey and the people were so nice. I remember thinking, ‘Okay, I’ve got to take this. It just feels right.’”
During her freshman season at Oklahoma Christian in 2013-14, Stanford played in all 31 games and started nine times for the Lady Eagles, averaging 9.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. She finished the season 27th in scoring in the Heartland Conference statistics, shooting 39.9 percent from the field and 32.6 percent from the 3-point range.
“She’s a hard worker,” Head Basketball Coach Stephanie Findley said. “She comes in and works on her shot all the time and she works hard in the summer to keep herself in good shape. Those attributes transfer to the court when it comes time for season. She’s put in the work and the preparation to make herself a good shooter.”
Stanford led the team in both scoring and rebounding during her sophomore season in 2014-15, averaging 16.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, while starting all 26 games for the Lady Eagles. She finished the season fourth in scoring and 12th in rebounding in the Heartland Conference regular-season stats, and was named to the All-Heartland Conference second-team, as well as the National Christian College Athletic Association All-American first-team list after earning NCCAA Central Region Player of the Year honors.
After her sophomore season of basketball, Stanford decided to join the Lady Eagle track and field team, qualifying for the NCCAA Championships in the high jump event. She finished second at the meet to earn All-American honors at the national meet in Rome, GA, with a mark of 5 feet, 5.75 inches.
“Track has just been something I could go out and do to clear my head of basketball,” Stanford said. “It’s been nice to have another focus besides just basketball.”
Stanford’s career-best jump of 5 feet, 8 inches allowed her to tie the Oklahoma Christian school record set by Charlotte Heron in 2007. That jump also earned her Division II All-Region honors from the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coach Association and she was named twice as the NCCAA student-athlete of the week.
“There’s been no sacrifice in it for me,” Findley said. “She does not get to start track practice until the basketball season is over so she doesn’t get to refine those skills until later in the track season. As far as basketball is concerned though, I don’t think track takes away from it at all, but I’m sure basketball takes away from her track preparation.”
Stanford’s junior basketball season in 2015-16 saw her become Oklahoma Christian’s first female Division II All-American after receiving honorable mention on the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Division II All-American list. Playing 29 games for the Lady Eagles, Stanford averaged 15.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game and was named to the Heartland Conference second-team list for the second straight season.
She was also named on All-OklahomaSports.net’s first-team and their Oklahoma College Player of the Week during the season, as well as receiving the Heartland Conference Player of the Week award four times — the most of any player in the league.
“It’s hard for other players to guard her because if you put a big girl on her, she can play the perimeter,” Findley said. “If they put a smaller girl on her though, we can post her up and she can take it to the smaller girl down in the paint. Her versatility may be the most beneficial thing to her reaching this point, just because we have been able to use her in a lot of different positions.”
Stanford was unable to participate in track last spring due to injury, but she plans to compete this year after the Lady Eagles finish their basketball season. So far in their 2016-17 basketball season, Oklahoma Christian’s record is 8-10 overall and 3-3 in conference play. Stanford has scored 307 points in 18 games and was named the Heartland Conference Player of the Week on Dec. 12.
“Last season was our first year to be officially part of the NCAA Division II and we made it to the conference tournament,” Stanford said. “This year, our goal is to win the conference tournament and go on after that. With several of us being seniors and graduating soon that is our main focus.”
Stanford said as her time at Oklahoma Christian comes to an end, she has been blessed by the opportunity to show up and play the sport she loves every night.
“I have to thank Coach Findley and the other basketball coaches for giving me this opportunity, because if it had not been for basketball, I probably never would have thought twice about coming to OC,” Stanford said. “I believe God places you where He wants you and by placing me here, I have had the opportunity to grow in my faith. It’s been a blessing and I could not have asked to go to a better university.”
Statistics provided by the Oklahoma Christian University Sports Information office.