Greenback center to play at next level

Greenback School’s Alyssa McKinley signed her basketball letter of intent Feb. 25 to play basketball at Bryan College.

Greenback School’s Alyssa McKinley will continue basketball for the next four years after signing her letter of intent Feb. 25 with the Bryan College Lady Lions.

“It was a great experience, yeah, like playing high school ball is a once-in-chance thing, you get to play with teammates and grow as a family, but whenever I get to Bryan, I hope to grow more there and improve more on my skills and just make a new family,” she said.

Basketball has always been a way of life for McKinley, who grew up in Loudon. She played for the Loudon High School Lady Redskins her freshman season before transferring to Greenback the next season.

“Yeah, I’ve played basketball since I was about 5, so it’s been about a good 12, almost 13 years, so I’ve grown a lot throughout the years,” McKinley said. “My sophomore year, I transferred here after playing at Loudon my freshman year. Due to transfer rules, I had to sit out a year because I didn’t move houses, so that kind of set me back. Last year, we had five, six seniors, so I didn’t really get much playing time because of my position. We struggled somewhat this year somewhat with sickness and injuries and all that other stuff, but we tried to bounce back. We didn’t finish off like we wanted to, but it was a great season.”

McKinley missed her sophomore season and did not play much last year due to depth, but she played considerable minutes this season as a center. Her high school season ended Friday following a 48-27 loss to Unaka High School in the Region 1-1A quarterfinals.

“She’s got good size and she works hard. The offense lots of times that I play is more guard-oriented, so she’s not always getting a ton of minutes for me, but she’s here without fail,” Angie Lucier, Greenback head girls basketball coach, said. “She wants to do what you want her to do, and I think when she gets in a situation where they’ve got more of a post game going on that with her size — she thinks she’s still growing, too, so we’ll see. Hopefully, she’ll have a lot of success at Bryan.”

McKinley started receiving looks from Bryan last season and was offered a spot Feb. 14 on senior night.

“Coach (Bryon) Lawhon had been talking to me my junior year, and we just had to wait until we got more toward my senior year and everything with all of that, and he finally offered me my senior night,” she said. “Bryan felt like a family, and it just felt at home. That’s what I wanted to be a part of.”

The Lady Lions finished the regular season 28-2 and are set to return to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division 2 tournament in Sioux City, Iowa, next week.

McKinley is excited about the opportunity to start a new journey with one of the most successful NAIA women’s programs in the nation.

“I feel as soon as I get there and we start workouts and everything and practices, then I will be able to lean toward more of what I will be, but I’ll probably be more like a post,” she said. “I get back pretty well on defense, and I’m big, obviously, so that gives me some advantages. I do have some stuff to work on with shot-wise and just getting my fundamentals down more than what they are now.”