DICKINSON, N.D. – The options in Farson were always limited, but that didn’t matter. For Kenzi Reed, it’s always been about basketball.
With her mother, Laura, being a basketball coach and a former college basketball player and her father, Scott, being a three-sport athlete and state football champion from Sheridan, sports have been a part of her life from about the time she was born.
When Kenzi was at basketball camp in second grade, she was already going against players three years older than her. The game had always come naturally to her, and with a little determination, she turned herself into one of the most gifted basketball players to come through Farson-Eden High School.
“I picked it up pretty easily at first. I remember at Junior Pronghorns, I was a little second-grader and I got paired with a fifth-grader, because I had really good ball-handling skills,” Kenzi said. “I knew I was pretty good at a young age, so it just picked up and I kept rolling with it.”
“Rolling with it” was harder work than it sounds. Skill and love for the game were never lacking, but one of the areas Kenzi was lacking in was size.
Growing up, her favorite basketball player was always Kobe Bryant, a player who could make shots anywhere on the court. At the same time, she was constantly watching Farson-Eden’s local standout, Tiffany Mines, who could also do damage inside and out.
When Kenzi was about 12 years old and after watching players she wanted to model her game after, the one part of her game that she wanted to improve the most was outside shooting. So she and her dad found a way.
At that age, Scott Reed wasn’t sure whether focusing on 3-point shooting was the best course of action, but in the end he agreed to help her find a way.
The idea was sparked by a story about Jimmer Fredette’s dad filling a ball with water to work on shooting strength … so naturally Kenzi started shooting a medicine ball onto the roof of their barn and letting it roll back to her.
Between that, her dad shoveling snow off the driveway so she could shoot in the winter, plus countless hours of the two shooting in the gym, the hard work paid off.
Six years later, Kenzi Reed found herself just one game away from leading Farson-Eden High School to the 1A basketball state championship. The Pronghorns fell short 69-59 in the semifinal, but it was the culmination of Kenzi’s countless hours on the court, as she drained eight 3-pointers to give the Pronghorns a fighting chance.
Kenzi finished her FEHS career with a third-place state finish and her second all-state selection, but even when high school was over, the passion for basketball was still stronger than ever.
The next goal was college basketball, and the first step consisted of Kenzi and her dad hopping in the truck and traveling to college after college. After six strong tryouts, there was still one school that Kenzi had yet to visit … and it was only 40 miles from home base – Western Wyoming Community College.
WWCC ended up being her final visit, and she loved it. The idea of going to school in her backyard bothered her for a while, but ultimately she chose to follow her mom’s footsteps and play basketball for the Mustangs.
Kenzi joined a stacked freshmen class, which eventually produced five players who moved on to play at four-year schools. And true to form, Kenzi was one of those five.
Despite playing out of position for much of her time at WWCC due to injuries around her, Kenzi drew attention from four-year schools. She continued to show great leadership skills to go with the deadly outside shot, but said that the talent around her helped draw the recruiters.
“I knew that we had really good players on the team, so I knew there would be coaches looking,” Kenzi said. “I knew from the get go that I wanted to go on. I wanted to play a full four years of basketball ever since I came out of high school.”
However, as Kenzi’s sophomore season at WWCC started to come to a close, she still wasn’t getting recruited heavily and was starting to get nervous.
“I went on a few visits, but nothing felt 100 percent. I knew that feeling. Your heart and your gut will know when it’s the right place,” she said.
Kenzi had visited Colorado Mesa University and Colorado Christian University with a few more planned, but just a couple weeks before she graduated from Western Wyoming, that fateful phone call arrived.
It was from Dickinson State University, and the more she and the coaches talked, the more Kenzi became hooked.
“Usually when you call or talk to coaches, at least in my experience, you have a good 10- to 20-minute conversation about school and stuff like that,” Kenzi said. “But Dickinson sat me down and it was almost like a conference call with the head coach, assistant coach, and they talked to me about everything. … They told me their rundown on basketball and just hit on everything. They’d ask me questions like ‘How do you like to play?’ I said fast and they said that’s perfect. Everything just kind of added up.”
What head coach Liz Lewis liked the most about Kenzi was her willingness to work hard and, of course, her ability to light it up from the 3-point arc. Regardless of the reasons, Lewis wanted Kenzi to play for her and that feeling of being truly wanted made all the difference.
“It is really stressful to find a school and know it’s the right fit for you,” Kenzi said. “It was really nice when Dickinson (State) called me. It’s all about how much they want you. You just have to feel that and go with your gut for whatever is right. … When a coach wants you, that feeling is great. With this coach, you could tell she wanted me.”
Dickinson State ranks in the top three in the nation for business school, which Kenzi is fully planning on taking advantage of to help retain her master’s degree. Despite also being a model student, there’s nothing that has pushed her to this point more than the game she loves.
“I think basketball is just something that has always been there for me since day one. The love of the game really just keeps me going,” she said.