BANGOR, Maine — After leading Washburn High School to four consecutive Class D girls basketball state championships, Kenzie Worcester was ready to take her talents to nearby University of Maine-Presque Isle.
Instead, the 2015 Bangor Daily News All-Maine second-team selection decided to attend Husson University in Bangor where older brother Mitch was playing basketball.
“At the very last minute, I decided to go to Husson because Husson had my major, physical therapy, and I saw that Husson had a lot of (basketball) success. And I was interested in playing with people like Victoria McIntyre and Chandler (Guerrette),” explained the daughter of Larry and Kim Worcester.
McIntyre and Guerrette were fellow Aroostook County girls from Mars Hill and Presque Isle, respectively.
Husson head coach Kissy Walker is glad Worcester had a change of heart.
The junior guard recently eclipsed the 1,000-point mark at Husson after tallying 2,001 points for Washburn.
Worcester said she is really happy with her decision and that scoring 1,000 points at Husson means a lot.
“My teammates and my coaches helped me get to where I am; my family as well. It’s nice to have that huge support system,” said Worcester.
Walker said Worcester has improved each year and that it was extremely important for her to make significant strides from last year to this season. That’s because Husson graduated guards Guerrette, Darla Morales and Denae Johnson, who combined to average 32.9 points, 13.6 rebounds, 7.6 steals and 7 assists a year ago as Husson went 23-5, won the North Atlantic Conference championship and earned its first NCAA Division III tournament win.
Worcester is the NAC’s No. 2 scorer, averaging 19.7 points, owns the second best shooting percentage (51.5 percent) and ranks third from the 3-point arc (41.5).
She is sixth in steals per game (1.8) and eighth in assists (2.7). And despite standing only 5-foot-4, she is also grabbing 5.5 rebounds per game.
“What is kind of amazing is that everybody knew she was our go-to player this year with Chandler, Darla and Denae gone, but she has still continued to put up real good numbers,” said Walker. “She is so smart. She studies the game.
“She has the highest basketball IQ of any player I have coached in 27 years and that says a lot,” added Walker.
Worcester has embraced the challenge that comes with being the team’s go-to player.
“My role on the team is a little bit bigger so I put in a lot of work during the offseason … lifting, working with a trainer. I definitely think it has paid off,” said Worcester.
She learned her freshman year that the college game was much more physical and that she couldn’t simply rely on her quickness, saying “I had to gain weight and add muscles.”
“She has definitely gotten a lot stronger over the years,” observed brother Mitch. “She has always been a student of the game and is always looking at ways to get better.”
Walker said Kenzie Worcester is like a coach on the floor.
“She studies a lot of video. We talk a lot about different teams and strategies,” said Walker. “She recognizes offenses and defenses so I don’t have to call a timeout if a team changes up a defense. She can recognize it and get the word to everybody. She loves the game.”
Worcester said Guerrette played an important role in her transition from high school to college ball her freshman year. She talked to her about things such as strategies. Worcester averaged 13.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.4 steals that year.
Worcester, who appreciated some beneficial chats with Walker, said developed confidence because Walker and her teammates “had confidence in me.”
During her sophomore year, Worcester averaged 15.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.1 steals as Husson earned its second straight conference title.
This year has been a rewarding one for Worcester, who serves as a co-captain on a team featuring 11 sophomores and freshmen.
“She has always been a leader and she has grown a lot as a player and as a leader in her three years,” said senior co-captain Anna MacKenzie.
Sophomore Joan Overman, a former teammate at Washburn, said Worcester “is an all-around great player and is someone I look up to.”
The Eagles (11-8 overall, 9-3 NAC) dealt Castleton University its only conference loss last Friday, 81-77 in double overtime.
Worcester amassed 32 points and nine rebounds, both game highs. She had eight points and two rebounds in the second OT.
“It has been a different year,” said Worcester. “We aren’t as guard-oriented as we have been. There has been a learning curve. We’ve got a lot of young players who have shown a lot of improvement over the course of the year.
“I’m excited for the post-season to see how it all plays out.”
Mitch Worcester said his sister has really stepped up her game.
“She has improved her shooting, she is able to create off the dribble. She has been creating space. Her ball-handling has gotten a lot better which also comes with creating space. I’m so proud of her,” said Mitch.
Walker said Worcester cares deeply about the program.
“She wants us to be the best we can be,” said Walker.
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