Author: Brian Smiley
Source: Brantford Expositor
Kendra Van Leeuwen looks back with fondness on her last four years at the University of Wisconsin, where she starred on the basketball court for the Badgers.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better overall experience,” said the St. John’s College graduate. “The friendships that I’ve made over the four years and the memories are so strong. Looking back at where I was as a freshman and where I am now, I smile thinking about the journey.
“It’s bittersweet to think about that – that was my last season and what’s going to happen in the future.”
Van Leeuwen entered NCAA basketball as a highly touted prospect but took nothing for granted.
“Going in as a freshman, I told myself I had to work hard and earn everything,” she said. “That’s kind of the mentality I’ve kept with me over the four years.”
Van Leeuwen, a guard, said she used that mentality in both athletics and academics. She said she has learned to never be satisfied with her accomplishments; to always strive for more.
On the court, she said she tried to help the best way she could and that meant moving the ball around and setting up her teammates.
“Every year, with the teammates you’re with, you mould to their system and the different players you have.”
Brantford’s Kendra Van Leeuwen (middle) is honoured during senior night for the University of Wisconsin’s women’s basketball team with sister Kelly (left), father Steve, mother Lisa and brother Tyler in attendance. Submitted JPG, BR
One career highlight came during a game in late February when all of the team’s graduating players were honoured. Van Leeuwen’s parents, Lisa and Steve, and her siblings, Kelly and Tyler, were in attendance.
“It was another chance to play the game I love in front of a crowd that loves the game and loves Wisconsin,” she said. “To be there with my family, it meant so much to me that they came down.
“There was a lot of emotions, really good ones. It was a moment I’m never going to forget.”
Van Leeuwen’s senior teammates are the first graduating class for head coach Jonathan Tsipis. Although the team’s win-loss record wasn’t great over the four seasons, a foundation was built, she said.
“You could see how much the team culture has changed,” said Van Leeuwen.
“From four years ago to now, the culture is so tight knit. It’s a great atmosphere to be around. I would do anything for my teammates.”
A multiple Academic All-Big Ten player, Van Leeuwen sits second in Wisconsin history with 123 starts, third in assists with 442, fifth in most games played with 125 and sixth for most consecutive games played at 81.
She said she would change nothing about her time at Wisconsin.
“The ups and downs through it all have made me what I am today as an athlete, a student and overall as a person,” she said.
“Every little moment along my journey at Wisconsin has affected me and changed me.”
With a double major in marketing and operation technology management, along with a certificate in supply chain management, Van Leeuwen will begin looking for a job after her semester is finished.
As for basketball, she was invited to attend in early April the Pro Hoops Combine, which showcases top senior players for Women’s National Basketball Association coaches and general managers, and foreign coaches and agents. But that event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Van Leeuwen isn’t closing the door on returning to the court.
“They said we are still welcome to attend next year’s combine, which will be an option for me.”