One of the fiercest competitors to play at KCKCC, Brodi Byrd went all out on every play. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins) Brodi Byrd got an embrace from coach Joe McKinstry as she closed out a record-breaking career at KCKCC. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)
by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
Brodi Byrd’s two-year basketball career at Kansas City Kansas Community College will go down as one of the best in history – a national championship and 57 wins.
Only twice have Lady Blue Devils teams won more games in back-to-back seasons. The 1976-1977 teams that finished fifth in the NJCAA Division I national tournament won 63; the first team to win a NJCAA DII national championship in 2015-2016 won 62.
For Byrd, her legacv can be summed up in just a few words. “League champion, region champion, national champion, left-handed 3-pointer, half-court shot, buzzer beater, 3-point record.”
Darting between three defenders, Byrd’s buzzer beater gave KCKCC a pivotal 75-73 win at Fort Scott Feb. 16, 2019.
“If we lost, we potentially would have finished in second place,” Byrd said. “I wasn’t into rebounding and coach was on me. I saw an opportunity and went for it.”
The left-handed 3-pointer came in a 64-60 win over Johnson County that clinched the 2019 Jayhawk Conference championship. With the shot clock about to expire, Byrd drained the only left-handed attempt of her career, a trey that held off a JCCC rally that had closed to within four points.
“Without a doubt the biggest play of the game,” KCKCC coach Joe McKinstry said. “We were in trouble and she bailed us out.”
“It was so weird,” Byrd said. “I’ve looked at the video and it (the shot) looked so natural. There (wasn’t) any other option. I had to rush.” Her half-court shot came against Park University.
Her career highlight?
“The national championship, for sure,” she said. “It’s an experience not many get to feel. Everyone told me were going to win but I didn’t know. I was just a freshman. When we won, it was sort of a relief because of how hard we had worked all year.”
McKinstry first watched Byrd when she was a sophomore at Truman High School in Independence, Missouri.
“I was actually there to see Alix Wilson, who was a senior at St. Joseph Central,” McKinstry said. “I liked her ability to shoot the ball but she was also a good ball handler and actively defensively. Her senior year, I reached out to her coach and he had nothing but great things to say about her. So that’s when we began recruiting her pretty heavily.”
All-conference and all-district as a senior, she helped lead Truman to the Suburban Conference championship. Averaging 14 points, she played in three All-Star games. Byrd had 76 3-point goals as a freshman at KCKCC, the fourth most ever. A regular in the starting lineup the last half of the season (22 starts), she averaged 8.9 points, scoring in double figures in 15 games with a high of 23.
The lone veteran to play every game this season, Byrd averaged 10.3 points, shared the team lead in assists (2.4), was second in rebounds (4.8) and knocked down 56 3-pointers to give her the all-time record for career threes with 132. Scoring in double figures 17 times, she had a career high of 24 points.
“It doesn’t feel like this season is over,” Byrd said of this year’s 25-7 record with all seven losses coming to teams ranked in the Top 5 at one time or another. “We were capable of winning them all but we were so young and inexperienced. We didn’t understand what it took. I was hoping when we beat Highland everyone would understand what it took to win a big game.”
Her future now is up in the air.
“I’m undecided. I will take some visits. I’ll probably know in a month,” she said.
She’ll depart with a new-found appreciation for basketball at the community college level.
“Way better than I expected,” she said. “Definitely not what you see about junior colleges on-line and on TV.”