|Rams Spotlight: McKenzie Sigurdson|
Nobody had a better seat to watch the amazing season the Ryerson Rams women’s basketball team had last year than McKenzie Sigurdson. She witnessed the team compile a regular season record of 16-3 to sit atop the OUA East division standings. She cheered the Rams on as they clinched their first berth into the CIS Final 8 national championship tournament in program history. And she watched every tense second that Ryerson played on their way to the consolation final at that tournament in Quebec.
Although she was there the entire year, she didn’t play a single second. Not one. Unfortunately for Sigurdson, she was ineligible after transferring to Ryerson from Carleton University.
“It was very difficult,” the Toronto native said following practice a few days before the winter break. “I’ve played basketball since I was nine years old and I’ve always played all year round. I had practice here (at Ryerson) but it obviously isn’t the same as a game.”
A strong student in high school, Sigurdson decided to get into a science program at Carleton University. There she also began her OUA career. The 5-7 point guard was a starter for the Ravens in the 2013-14 season and named to the OUA All-Rookie team.
“She always did that behind the back move that you knew was coming, but didn't have a way to stop it,” recalled Ryerson’s Keneca Pingue-Giles about playing against Sigurdson. “I am just glad that I don't have to defend that move anymore!”
Despite her success on the hardwood, Sigurdson quickly realized that the major she had chosen wasn’t for her. Becoming a primary school teacher had always been in the back of her mind and partway through the year she knew a change would be necessary to pursue that goal. Upon researching programs that would better fit her new career path, she settled on Early Childhood Studies at Ryerson.
Sigurdson’s decision to switch schools was much to the delight of Ryerson’s head coach Carly Clarke.
“She reached out to me that she wanted to be back home,” recalled Clarke. “I was excited to hear from her. Obviously I knew she had a strong rookie season with Carleton and that she could help us move towards our goals.”
Although she couldn’t be on the floor during games last season due to the OUA’s strict transfer rules, Sigurdson found other ways to contribute.
“I essentially played every practice like a game to try to make my teammates as prepared as they could be for their games,” she explained. “They, along with Carly, really made me feel like a part of the team.”
Sigurdson’s energy, upbeat attitude and pleasant smile consistently come up when people are asked about her. By bringing that to practice every day, she helped to foster a positive environment for her teammates.
“Even though she could not play last season, she was always there,” said second year forward and fellow Early Childhood Studies major Sofia Paska. “Whenever she saw I was down she would… support me and tell me to keep going.”
As much as she enjoyed cheering from the bench and helping her teammates improve during practice, Sigurdson was more than ready to get back onto the court competitively this year. At Ryerson’s home opener on Nov. 4 against the Toronto Varsity Blues, she entered the game as a Ram for the first time.
“It felt really cool,” she said. “I could see my parents in the audience and it was just an exciting moment to finally step back on (the court) and feel like a basketball player again.”
A self described ‘pass-first’ point guard, Sigurdson only adds to the offensive firepower and depth on this year’s roster. Her work ethic and relentlessness while defending also make her invaluable.
“McKenzie (or Mac as she is commonly referred to as) is probably the best ball handler that I’ve seen,” said Clarke. “She passes it well. She’s got good game sense, vision and can find her teammates.”
“Mac brings a burst of energy,” said Pingue-Giles. “She is looking to push the ball in transition and get all her teammates involved. She can read the game really well, and knows when to pass and when to shoot… That's one of the many great things about Mac, she can turn nothing into something.”
This season has been a bit of an adjustment though. While in her rookie year at Carleton, Sigurdson started nearly every game and was relied on to play a high number of quality minutes. That hasn’t been the case so far at Ryerson where she’s been coming off the bench.
“Whenever Carly puts me out there, I’m just trying to help the team win,” said Sigurdson. “I’m not really thinking about minutes at all. I’m just happy to be playing.”
“She understands and has accepted her role,” added Clarke. “That’s what’s special about our team right now. We have a lot of different players that can play… She sees that and has embraced what we’ve been asking her to do.”
The formula has been working so far for Ryerson. Through six games, they’ve posted a 5-1 record and average over 80 points a game. The basketball world has taken notice. The Rams have been in the CIS Top 10 rankings all season and currently sit third in the country behind Saskatchewan and McGill.
Looking to continue their success and return to nationals in 2016, the Rams host the York Lions and Queen’s Gaels before the Carleton Ravens come to town on January 20th.
“I think I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it,” said Sigurdson about playing against her former team. “I think it’s exciting. I have some friends on the team I’m very excited to see. They’re in town and we’ll get to hang out after the game hopefully… I wish them the best but, I’m a Ram now so I’ll be going hard that game for sure.”