MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – After the conclusion of her senior season, Northern Michigan’s Makaylee Kuhn had a big decision to make.
With one year left of eligibility remaining and coming off her third straight All-GLIAC selection, Kuhn had options.
“There was definitely some moments where I was questioning, ‘Okay, what do I want to do next?’ said Kuhn. “I graduated from college last year, do I want to start a master’s or a graduate program? Do I want to try and go to a division one program and see if that will be something different, something that I could possibly unlock.”
After weighing her options Kuhn made her decision, choosing to return to NMU as a 5th year senior.
“I just kind of wanted to leave my legacy,” said Kuhn. “I feel like last year there was some unfinished business. I didn’t know where it was but I could just feel it that I want to go back, I want to give it my all. Going five years into this program you kind of step into every single shoe that you can throughout that time,” said Kuhn. “Now I’m here and being a 5th year senior I’m like, ‘Yeah, this is what I wan to do.'”
Second year head coach, Casey Thousand, played a big role in bringing Kuhn to Marquette. The two formed a bond during Thousand’s first stint with the program as an assistant coach.
“She was kind of one of my recruits when I was recruiting her,” said Thousand. “So I was really excited when I saw she was coming back. Obviously now she’s staying for her 5th year which helps us even more. She has that more knowledge of the game. She has the knowledge of how teams are in our conference but she also has a very high passion, for not just her teammates, but for NMU and wants to take this program and leave her legacy at the highest it can possibly be.”
Kuhn continues to lead by example and has helped set the standard inside the Wildcats locker room.
“You want your best player to be your hardest worker,” said Thousand. “She’s not afraid to come in and even yesterday was our off day and she was coming in and taking care of her body. That’s what you need to do to maintain and live our season, it’s a long season, but she’s willing to do whatever it takes. When your best player is your hardest worker, it’s your best thing for your culture and it’s the best thing for your team. She’s really trying to take that in and saying, ‘Hey guys, we’re going to achieve a lot of great things. I didn’t come back just to come back. I came back because I want to do something great.’ She’s a big piece of what we’re going to be doing this year.”
On the court, that hard work will continue to translate in the biggest moments.
“If we need points, we know who to get the ball to,” said Thousand. “She wants it in her hands at all times which makes it really easy. When you need somebody to make a big play, she’s going to make it. If you need somebody to make on offensive rebound, defensive rebound, she’s going to go grab it. She’s just all over the court wherever we need her to be, she’s going to be there for her team.”
“I mean, she’s super passionate about the game and you can see it when she plays,” said Kayla Tierney, a senior guard for the Wildcats. “She brings a lot of that on the court and into our team as well. So, super talented at every level. She can score at every level. From the lane, mid-range, three’s too which makes her really hard to guard. Clearly, she’s one of the top players in our conference. So, she an all around, great player at every level.”
Kuhn has helped the Wildcats get off to a fast start this season. The Wildcats are 2-0 after two strong performances at this year’s GLVC/GLIAC Challenge.
“Honestly, she’s one of the most athletic players I think that I’ve ever coached,” said Thousand. “She can do a little bit of everything where she can take people off of the dribble, she can shoot the 3 and she can post people up. She wants the ball in her hands at all times and is super tough with it. She can score in different ways, at different levels, against different people, depending on what people are doing. She was double and triple-teamed and it’s going to happen. Now, it’s trying to get her teammates involved, which she did a very good job this weekend at, so I was very pleased with how she played.”
When all is said and done Kuhn will leave the program as one of the best to ever dawn a Wildcat Jersey.
Kuhn is re-writing the record books, climbing near to top off all of the major statistical categories, but her legacy and impact will go far beyond the basketball court.
“It’s not just about basketball,” said Thousand. “As a human, as a person, as a student, I mean she’s a 4.0 student too. She was our NMU Academic Award winner for our entire department. I mean, she does it all which is the best part. She is establishing something within our program that is not easy to do,” said Thousand. “She’s willing to take on more if she needs to to get our team where it needs to go. On the court, we rely on her a lot but she’s also driving her team to get better, get in the gym, and get the things done that we need to to be successful. “When she walks away from the program she’s going to definitely leave her mark and it’s going to be proud to be a Wildcat and be excited for where we’re going to go and what we’re going to do.”
“She’s been our SAC representative for our school for all four years that she’s been here,” said Tierney. “She graduated with her undergrad with a 4.0 GPA. Just super dedicated to school and basketball. She’s a perfect example of someone who works hard at everything that they have in front of them and doesn’t take it for granted. So, she’s a really good example especially for people coming in and now she’s impacted all these classes coming in. Super impactful when getting recruits, getting to talk to her. Someone who’s been super successful at this level and this school. Just overall, a really good example, leader, a really big part of our program. She’s made an impact on Northern as a university as well.”
“I want to create a great program with these girls and for the future, build that culture. We’ve had a good culture all of my years here but I wanted to make sure to continue that and make sure it’s going off in the right direction after I’m gone.”