|Posted by Brian Dickmann on October 22, 2014 at 9:10 PM|
Alfonzo McKinnie is poised for a big season this year for the Green Bay Phoenix. The 5th year senior will be a key figure in Green Bay's quest to repeat as Horizon League regular season champions as well as accomplish their goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1996.
The 6' 8" forward from Chicago transferred to Green Bay two years ago after a very successful sophomore season at Eastern Illinois, averaging 10.2 points and 7.0 rebounds in 23.8 minutes per game for the Panthers. An effective scorer, his 56.7% field goal percentage was good for 2nd in the Ohio Valley Conference in 2011-2012, and his 7.0 rebounds per game were 5th highest in the league. He was forced to sit out the 2012-2013 season with the Phoenix due to NCAA transfer rules.
McKinnie endured a frustrating season a year ago. He suffered a right knee injury in camp prior to the season. When it started bothering him last October, he got it checked out and it was discovered that he had a torn meniscus. He underwent surgery the next day and was expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
Head Coach Brian Wardle said in a statement at the time that “Alfonzo’s surgery went well and he has already gotten the rehab process underway. We expect this will only be a minor setback for Alfonzo, but we will be very conservative and diligent with the process. He is going to be a major part of our team this season, and we look forward to getting him back on the court with his teammates.”
McKinnie eventually would make his Green Bay debut on December 21st, two months after his surgery, in a non-conference game against Fairfield at the Resch Center. He was understandably rusty, having sat out the entire previous season as well as coming off a significant knee injury. Playing only 6 minutes, he would end up going 0-2 from the field, but did grab two rebounds before picking up 3 quick fouls. "There was a little confidence issue with my knee going into the game, but once I got going I didn't think of it" McKinnie said this week at the annual Green Bay basketball media day.
He wouldn't play again until mid-February due to continuing issues with the knee. But he was able to contribute down the stretch last season and help the team to its first regular season championship since 1996. McKinnie averaged 4.6 points and 2.8 rebounds while playing around 12 minutes per game in his 9 appearences.
"I'm still getting to 100%" said McKinnie. "I'm still rehabbing every day. I kind of took the summer off as far as working out, basketball wise. I pretty much got stronger, did rehab, and did physical therapy a lot just to get my knee strong for this season."
One aspect that Phoenix fans were able to get a glimpse of last year was his outside shooting. After never attempting a three point field goal in two seasons at Eastern Illinois, McKinnie made 6 of 13 (46.2%) of his three point attempts in his limited appearences last year. "That's something else I was working on this off-season. Just getting a lot of shots up, trying to get that muscle memory in tact" he said.
When healthy, he is capable of highlight reel plays, including high flying dunks like the SportsCenter Top Ten dunk he posterized former NBA All-Star Shawn Marion with. "It's going to be crazy" McKinnie said, speaking about the team's athleticism. "It goes from the big guys on down to the point guard."
Green Bay will need him to help fill the void left behind by NBA Draft pick Alec Brown. McKinnie's versatility and ability to play multiple positions should mean big minutes for him, as long as he is able to remain healthy.
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