Kennady McQueen sees a championship dream come true with Utah women’s basketball

Sophomore guard gave her best defensive performance in the upset win over Stanford.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes guard Kennady McQueen (24) brings the ball downcourt, in PAC-12 action between the Utah Utes and the Stanford Cardinals, at the Jon M. Huntsman Center, on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023.

Kennady McQueen watched as her Utah women’s basketball teammates climbed the orange ladder with a pair of scissors and each cut a piece of the net from the hoop. The No. 8 Utes were mere minutes removed from upsetting the No. 3 Stanford Cardinal, 84-78, at the Huntsman Center in front an announced 9,611 fans and claiming a piece of the Pac-12 title.

McQueen took mental notes as Jenna Johnson, Gianna Kneepkins and five others snip-snipped away. See, the sophomore guard from Henefer, Utah, didn’t get a chance to win a championship while playing at North Summit High School. So she wasn’t quite sure where to cut the net.

As McQueen stood and cut off her piece of basketball glory, her entire basketball journey made sense.

“It was worth the wait,” McQueen told The Salt Lake Tribune as she sat near the court holding her piece of net. “Everything happens for a reason. So climbing up to that net, everything paid off right in that moment.”

McQueen scored 10 points and added five rebounds and four assists for the Utes on Saturday. But it was her defense that shined through most. The sophomore amassed six steals in the game, perhaps none more impactful than her coming up with the ball with 57 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and Utah up four.

“I remember I saw a few of my teammates around causing some ruckus, and then I got involved with the mix and ended up getting the ball and going after it,” McQueen said. “But yeah, to hear the crowd after that play. I recall that. Yeah, the crowd got super loud.”

McQueen’s six steals were the most she’s had all season. The next highest was when she had three in a road loss to Colorado in January.

McQueen’s overall intensity was part of the reason Utah improved on defense this season. Coach Lynne Roberts said McQueen is the leader in the effort category for the team.

“She just plays so hard,” Roberts said after the game. “She’s got the highest motor I’ve ever been around.”

Just being teammates with McQueen has helped other players improve their games.

“Kennady uses her athleticism super well to get boards and just scrap on defense,” sophomore guard Gianna Kneepkens said. “You can watch her and take pointers from her, but also just going against her makes you better because she’s not going to give you easy looks.”

As a high school senior, McQueen’s North Summit team made it to the 2A title game and lost. She won the Utah Gatorade Player of the Year award that year, but admitted she’d rather have a state title attached to her name.

McQueen had wanted to play for the Utes since she was young. Her mother, Melanee, donned the red and white uniform in the late 1980s.

So winning a Pac-12 championship not only realizes a dream for McQueen, but also further solidifies that where someone is from doesn’t matter.

“You have to work extra hard. That’s what it comes down to,” McQueen said. “And it pays off. That’s what we saw tonight. So it was an overwhelming feeling just [to] see it finally paid off.