NAIA Player Spotlight: Makenzie Fessler – William Woods
Everyone chooses a program and University for different reasons. For Makenzie Fessler, William Woods was a smaller college atmosphere, where he could grow both as an individual and as a basketball player. He saw a University in which he could be a hooper, but also have success in the classroom, while also doing something he was excited about trying in becoming a fraternity member. William Woods had everything he was looking for as a student-athlete, so he signed his Letter of Intent to become an Owl.
From a basketball standpoint, Makenzie saw a young basketball program that he thought he could contribute, and he knew he could leave a mark and impact on the program. While some doubts settled in early on in his Freshman campaign, he finally got his first start against Lindenwood-Belleville. It was that moment, Makenzie says, while running through the tunnel of teammates, that it hit him that he could really do it, that he could really be a good college basketball player. All of the summer workouts, traveling the AAU circuit, long road trips, the inconsistent minutes to start his college career. All of that patience and hard work had finally paid off, and he was finally confident that he had made the right decision.
“Just enjoying the moment and the jitters of that experience is something I will never forget!” Makenzie stated.
What Makenzie couldn’t predict was that the coaching staff that recruited him would be gone after his Sophomore season, leaving him to learning a new system, and a new coach. That adjustment period this past season was tough, as through the first five games of the season Makenzie was averaging just 4.0ppg. First year head coach, Charles Belt III, admittedly said that he didn’t use Makenzie well in the early parts of the season. It was a learning curve for both of them, as they headed into their first American Midwest Conference (AMC) games. It was those opening two AMC games where the new Owls coaching staff started to figure out what they had in Makenzie as he finished with back to back 14 point games, including a 14 point, 13 rebound game against St. Louis Pharmacy. The 6’4 Forward was starting to find his groove within the new offense, and the coaches were starting to make him a feature within the system. The combination of the two led to Makenzie averaging 16.7ppg, 9.0rpg and being in double figures in all but two games after the Holiday break. The outbreak led to Makenzie being named All-AMC Honors.
The relationship Makenzie has with Coach Belt has grown into a tight bond. He says that playing for Coach Belt and his staff is a real blessing. That Coach Belt has come in and righted the ship, and he will fight for his guys. He has enjoyed playing for Coach Belt because he said that Coach always has the players best interests in mind both on and off the floor, and that he truly wants his players to become better people, not just better basketball players.
“When you have a coach like that off the court, it’s easy to follow that guy into battle on the court!” Makenzie said.
That player/coach bond really blossomed towards the second part of the year, and they will both look to carry that bond into this season. William Woods has been a special place for him, and he is eager to earn his degree in Accounting this year, and continue on as a GA while earning his Master’s in Business Management. His experiences on the court, in the classroom, and from serving both as Vice President and President of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at William Woods will no doubt help him have a successful future. For now though, he is focused on the upcoming school year.
His senior year should be a special one, and in these strange times, where we are unsure of what to expect for the upcoming school year and season, a sense of normalcy is what everyone wants. For Makenzie, normalcy is getting back to school and spending time with his brothers. He says they are one big family, and no matter if it’s the guys who have been with him for all four years, or the newcomers coming in, he is looking forward to getting to spend time with everyone. He is eager to get back to work, and has two BIG goals for this season. Make a postseason run, and beat Columbia College!
No matter what happens this season, the Owls are an “under the radar” team to keep an eye on for the 2020-2021 season! They have a good mix of returners and newcomers who will help to contribute. Coach Belt and his staff are now in their 2nd season, and will use that experience to continue to help move the Owls up the ranks of the AMC. You can bet that Makenzie Fessler will be a big part of the teams success this season!