During her four years at Youngstown State University, senior guard Kenya Middlebrooks was part of a 0-30 season and worked with two different head coaches.
When Bob Boldon took over for former head coach Cindy Martin, the transition was tough, Middlebrooks said.
“Coaching style was different. The way they talked about everything and their philosophy about the game was different,” Middlebrooks said. “It was a little bit of a difficult transition at the beginning. He wants us to work hard, and we are seeing the results we knew that were good for us.”
Senior guard Macey Nortey is the only player left, along with Middlebrooks, from that team. Nortey said they never thought about leaving.
“It was just so much turmoil,” Nortey said. “Just thinking about it, we were like, ‘We have to do this.’ We thought, ‘We can’t leave. We have to stick this out and do this together.'”
Nortey added that Boldon’s system has progressed.
“It was rough, but we knew this is was what we wanted to do, and we stuck it out,” she said.
This season, the Penguins have won 10 games, the best since the 2007-2008 season in which they finished with 14 wins.
Middlebrooks said having a year under Boldon has helped the team this season.
“Being there from last year and the experience last year, [Boldon] likes for us to shoot a lot of [3-pointers],” Middlebrooks said. “The coaches have a lot of faith in us to continue to shoot ‘cause they will fall.”
In a Jan. 26 home game against the University of Detroit Mercy, Middlebrooks had her best individual performance in a Penguins uniform. She set a career record of 30 points and broke the school record by hitting eight 3-pointers in the 80-67 victory.
Middlebrooks said she always has confidence in her shot.
“I think a lot of my shots that I shoot are going to go in,” Middlebrooks said. “This game, they were going in for me, so I just continued to shoot them up. Coach told me to just keep shooting. He was drawing up plays for me to get wide-open shots.”
Nortey said there is nobody she would rather have as her shooting guard.
“She’s just a clutch player,” Nortey said. “Obviously, we are both veterans, and Coach looks to us, and I feel like we embrace it well. I love playing with her. She knows that if I am getting her the ball, she better put it in the basket.”
Before Middlebrooks came to YSU, she attended Toledo’s Waite High School where she was a four-year letter winner. She was also named second-team all-city and third-team Division I all-district.
She chose YSU because she liked its size.
“I didn’t want to be in a university that was too big and the furthest class was 30 minutes apart,” Middlebrooks said. “It is small, and everyone kind of knows everyone.”
Nortey and Middlebrooks have been roommates since they arrived at YSU.
“I came in the summer before, so I was the only freshman here, and I got acclimated to everything way before she did,” Nortey said. “Freshman year, we were just so busy.”
Nortey said she wasn’t close to Middlebrooks, but that all changed in their sophomore year.
“We did everything together,” Nortey said. “We would cook, watch TV, do homework, just get into a routine [of] just hanging out and doing everything together. She is just a great friend, and great teammate.”
As a senior, Middlebrooks has been able to build many great relationships with her teammates. She considers that the best part of being at YSU.
“We consider each other family,” Middlebrooks said. “We are all sisters, and we know a lot about each other, and that is kind of refreshing because a lot of people don’t get to experience that.”
This season, she has started all 22 games for the Penguins and is second on the team with 11.3 points per game. She leads the team with 57 3-pointers.
Boldon said Middlebrooks has given the Penguins a solid second scorer next to junior forward Brandi Brown.
“I think it has been beneficial for us because she has been able to do it in a different way than Brandi,” Boldon said. “She has been able to help us stretch our defenses, which has enabled us to become more diversified offensively.”
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