Makenzie Cooley

Clinton junior Makenzie Cooley goes for a layup during a regular season home game for the River Queens.

Clinton junior Makenzie Cooley is a force to be reckoned with on the basketball court – and in multiple ways.

She’s a building block of the Clinton girls basketball foundation as first-year head coach Cathy Marx begins her quest of rebuilding a program. Cooley has been playing big minutes since her sophomore year, and this year has been no exception.

On a small-built team across the board, Cooley offers some of the only height for the River Queens. That often leaves her jostling in the lane for position and rebounds against players with multiple inches on her.

Her 11.7 rebounds per game doesn’t just rank her as the best on the team. It’s the second best in all of Class 4A, just one rebound per game behind North Scott’s All-State Grace Boffeli.

“I’m aware of where she is because it’s important for our team,” Marx said about her forward. “We don’t work on reboudning a lot, I don’t have to. She has great feet and she just tracks that ball.”

A calm and quiet Cooley takes a different form when she gets in the thick of the lane. She seems to come down with any ball that’s thrown up.

And she likes to, too.

“I like to have those stats,” Cooley said. “I like to really get in there, and being aggressive is one of the things I like most and doing well for the team.”

She played plenty of minutes as a sophomore, too, despite a powerful senior class. Even though she wasn’t as needed on the boards, she still grabbed nearly four a game.

“I was a little nervous going in, but then I got used to it and it was really fun,” Cooley said. “I think when I watch them shoot it, I can get in position really well. I try to get in there no matter where the ball is at and just try to locate the ball.”

She also puts up nearly seven points a game, shooting a team-high 42 percent from the field.

Cooley’s 5-10 frame doesn’t keep up with some of the height in the Mississippi Athletic Conference, which often leaves her at a disadvantage. Still, she’s charged with guarding some of the tallest and strongest post players that come through their schedule.

“I do struggle,” Cooley admits. “Sometimes it’s hard when the ball is out on the wing, it can be hard getting around to the right side on defense. I try to be aggressive, stay low, and know my role.”

But since she’s just a junior, she has time to work on it. She also had Marx, who was a post player herself and is looking forward to helping Cooley hone in her defensive talent.

“I haven’t had that chance to work on that with her yet, but that’s what we’ll do in the offseason is work on those skills,” Marx said.

Cooley also offers more than just her rebounding skills to the Queens. Clinton loses just one starter this year to graduation, meaning much of their roster will be back.

Cooley has been a leader all season and Marx is counting on her to continue that trend as a senior next year. That’s especially important for Marx, who has expressed a desire to rebuild the basketball program from the ground up.

Any young basketball player coming through the red and black ranks has an awesome example to look up to in junior Makenzie Cooley.

“She’s a great leader. The girls all look up to her,” Marx said. “She’s a fun person to be around and she works ... she’s just a beast.

“She’s the rock. She’ll take everything over. She’s my communicator – she’s not only a leader on the court but off the court too.”