Marquette Wire

Yentz quietly making massive impact in final year

Photo by Brian Georgeson

Photo by Brian Georgeson

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The Golden Eagles found themselves down 44-29 at halftime in a Jan. 21 matchup against DePaul.

If there’s any team in the BIG EAST that can beat Marquette at its own hyper-charged basketball-stuck-on-fast-forward game, it’s the Blue Demons, who poured in the points and held Marquette to an ugly 29.7 percent shooting from the field and an even ghastlier 15.4 percent from deep.

Senior forward McKayla Yentz wasn’t doing much better, missing all four of her first half attempts.

With two minutes and 50 seconds remaining in the third quarter and DePaul refusing to let their double-digit lead slip, the ball found Yentz standing behind the arc. Swish. Two possessions and a minute later, Yentz found herself in a similar situation. Swish. Then, racing against a rapidly depleting quarter clock, the ball found Yentz once more from deep. She got the shot off right before the buzzer, and again — swish.

The third triple slashed the Blue Demons lead to just eight and all of a sudden the game was up for grabs.

“She’s so even-keeled. Even when other teams are going on a run, she can step up and make those shots … They really open up the games for us,” head coach Carolyn Kieger said.

Yentz didn’t score again in Marquette’s thrilling 102-101 overtime victory. In fact, despite her heroic third quarter, she never even got another shot off before the final buzzer. This was not the “McKayla Yentz Game.” But that’s not her role, either.

As her four-year Marquette career comes to a close, Yentz will be remembered more for the little things than any one game, play or highlight.

She doesn’t stack the box stats — posting 8.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in 26 minutes per game — but just being on the floor helps her team win. At 6-foot-1, Yentz is the tallest player in Marquette’s main rotation. She’s also one of the best shooters, knocking down 38.3 percent of her looks from deep. She insists on the nominal listing of a forward, though for all intents and purposes she’s the team’s starting center.

“I would consider myself a guard-forward. Not really a guard, not really a forward. A center that shoots threes? I don’t know,” Yentz said.

The gravity she commands from deep opens the floor up for her teammates, like BIG EAST leading scorer Allazia Blockton, Erika Davenport or Natisha Hiedeman, who love scoring in the paint, at the rim or in the post.

“(Our star players) are obviously huge threats, which draws people to them, which makes me wide open. So I feel like when I knock down that shot, it’s giving it back to them,” Yentz said.

Her unselfish attitude and status as the team’s only senior make her an obvious candidate for team leader and has earned her a loving “team mom” nickname. But it’s a role not at all unwarranted, as her years of experience and strong work ethic have shaped her into a consummate veteran.

“Her first two years, she didn’t play at all,” Kieger said. “She was practice squad, and I don’t think anyone could’ve envisioned what the future would look like for her.”

“She’s really what college basketball should be about,” Kieger continued. “She never complained one time about not playing or minutes. And even when she knew she wasn’t playing in a game, she would wake up at 5 o’clock or 6 o’clock in the morning before class and get 300 or 400 hundred shots up. … She just believed her time would come, and when it came she wanted to be ready.”

Now, in the twilight of her career, Yentz’s time has come. And as the sun sets on four years of basketball, the not-quite-a-center is still looking for her one shining moment.

“Finishing this season, I want to go to the NCAA tournament. … I think it would be a really good way to wrap up my senior year and career here to have a chance to do that,” Yentz said.

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