KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Brodi Byrd’s two-year basketball career at Kansas City Kansas Community College will go down as one of the best in school history – a national championship and 57 wins.
Only twice have Blue Devils women’s team won more games in back-to-back seasons. The 1976-77 teams that finished fifth in the National Junior College Athletic Association DI national tournament won 63; the first team to win a NJCAA Division II national championship in 2015-16 won 62.
For Byrd, her legacy 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 remembers. “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,” said KCKCC coach Joe McKinstry. “We were in trouble and she bailed us out.”
“It was so weird,” says Byrd. “I’ve looked at the video and it (the shot) looked so natural. There was any other option. I had to rush.”
Her half-court shot came against Park University.
Her career highlight? “The national championship, for sure,” she says. “It’s an experience not many get to feel. Everyone told me we 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.
“I was actually there to see Alix Wilson, who was a senior at St. Joseph Central,” McKinstry admitted. “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 a 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 says of this year’s 25-7 record with all seven losses coming to teams ranked in the NJCAA top five 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 of continuing her basketball career at a four-year school.
She’ll depart with a newfound appreciation for basketball at the community college level.
“Way better than I expected,” she says. “Definitely not what you see about junior colleges online and on TV.”