McKenna Lentych

Southeast Whitfield High School graduate McKenna Lentych puts up a shot for Berry College.

McKenna Lentych grew up in a family of coaches and educators, so when the basketball and volleyball standout graduated from Southeast Whitfield High School in 2019, she initially wanted to explore a different career path.

Mark Lentych, McKenna’s dad, was as an assistant principal, athletics director and coach at Southeast for a decade before retiring this summer. Lentych’s mom, Suzanne, works in the Whitfield County Schools central office, and older sister Meghan was for a time Southeast’s competitive cheer coach and is a fifth-grade teacher.

Lentych earned a basketball scholarship to Young Harris College, where she initially studied marketing.

“It was a great experience, growing up with my family in education, but I wanted to see what else there was,” Lentych said. “Seeing the impact that they have made in serving others has made me realize I want to do the same thing.”

It took a transfer to Berry College and a major switch first to communications and then finally to middle-grade education, but Lentych is ready to continue the family legacy as an educator.

“I would love to actually come back to Southeast and teach and coach. I definitely think I want to be a coach,” Lentych said. “In my experiences as an athlete, some of the most influential people have been teachers and coaches. To be that for someone else would be amazing.”

“That time was really special, having my whole family right there,” Lentych said. “That’s something a lot of people don’t get to do. I’m really thankful for my time at Southeast. It’s really helped me prepare for my time in college.”

Lentych spent a year playing basketball at NCAA Division II Young Harris before deciding to make a transfer to Division III Berry. She was recruited out of high school by then-Young Harris head coach Jim Davis, but Lindsey Huffman took over the Young Harris program prior to Lentych’s freshman campaign.

“It was all very surreal to me originally. I really liked the coach at the time and they offered me a great scholarship,” Lentych said. “The new coach came in and it just wasn’t quite what I expected it to be, because I was recruited by someone else.”

After a season without a lot of playing time, Lentych headed for Berry. The guard saw a little more action during her sophomore season, appearing in seven games. In a junior campaign in 2021-22, Lentych got an even larger role, appearing in 24 contests.

Lentych averaged 4 points per game, but broke out for a career-high 22 — making 10 of 13 field goals — against Birmingham Southern in January.

“It’s been a great last two years for me. I feel like I’m more than just an athlete,” Lentych said. “It makes me feel like I have a place outside of basketball as well as in basketball. It’s a really great balance.”

Lentych is approaching her fourth season of college basketball, but it most likely won’t be her last. The NCAA granted athletes an extra season of eligibility because of COVID-19, and the two major changes means Lentych is still technically a junior, according to her academic course track. She hasn’t decided yet for sure whether she’ll continue playing for a fifth year, but said its a strong possibility.

With two more seasons of collegiate basketball possibly ahead of her, Lentych already finds herself reminiscing about her past in basketball.

If given the chance now to speak to her younger self, Lentych would say this: “Relax and enjoy the game you love, because it is over in the blink of an eye. That sounds cliché, but it really is true. I want people to enjoy sports and not stress so much.”

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