It was a rainy, end-of-summer day on September 2, 2020. Normally, this type of weather would keep the students at Marist College in their dorms, leaving only the sound of raindrops and tires splashing puddles to disturb the quiet college campus. Instead, the foggy, wet grounds of the college were filled with the roars of protest, as students and community members marched across the Marist campus in response to the death of Jacob Blake, who was shot multiple times by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin a few weeks earlier.
One of the leaders of this march was Trinasia Kennedy, a member of the Marist women’s basketball team and the co-president of the Black Student-Athlete Alliance (BSAA). Kennedy, along with other board members, including co-president Arthur Pickney and vice president Chidera Udeh, had only recently started the BSAA over the summer of 2020, amidst the protests over the deaths of George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, and Ahmad Aubrey.
“After everything had happened, we had a Zoom call with all of the black student-athletes and we were like, ‘How do you feel about all these events that have been coming up,’” Kennedy said. “And it’s a hard thing to think about because we didn’t know who we had or who we could talk to. So, we had this zoom call to talk about starting the Black Student-Athlete Alliance together and we figured that this was something we kind of had to get done because if we wanted to start making an impact, we had to start now.”
That intended impact has certainly begun, as the BSAA has already partaken in another march in late September and hosted a town hall in the last days of October. Kennedy hopes to have more events in the future to spark conversation, as well as hosting events for children in the local community.
“We’ve got a lot of things planned and a lot of things in our head,” Kennedy said. “We hope we can make an impact and even step outside of the Marist community because there are so many kids out there who need us and need someone to look up to, and we need to be those types of role models.”
With Kennedy making such an impact on campus and taking on this major leadership role, one might expect her to be a senior captain on the basketball team. One who leads her players through the most difficult times of the season. Well, that’s not the case. Kennedy is only a sophomore, and she is just beginning to find her potential.
Kennedy, like all other freshmen, came to Marist timid and not too confident in her abilities. And, of course, making the transition from high school-level athletics to collegiate-level athletics didn’t make things any easier.
“Freshman year, I felt I was focused on all of the wrong things, which made it hard to develop my shot and become more versatile,” Kennedy said. “And it was really hard for me because I didn’t play a lot. In high school, you play a lot of minutes. But you get to college you know you aren’t going to play as many minutes. But it doesn’t hit you until you’ve gone a full season without playing.”
In the 2019-2020 season, Kennedy only averaged a little over six minutes a game and she didn’t get to start in any of the 26 games that season. She knew, though, that she would have to step up in her sophomore year, as star players Rebekah Hand, Grace Vander Weide, and Alana Gilmer would all be graduating after the end of the 2020 spring semester. So, to better her game, Kennedy took time before and after practice to work on her ability to shoot from range and she dedicated countless hours to watching game tape of herself and her opponents.
“I’m a great driver and I’m great at attacking the rim but I knew that, if I worked on developing my shot, it would make it harder for other teams to guard me and that would help the team,” Kennedy said. “And I work really hard. I work out before practice. I work out after practice. And I try to invest all of the time that we don’t have together or when I’m not on the court in a lot of film, and film of myself especially. I look at what I did well last year, what I didn’t do well, and how can I make that better.”
As Kennedy was hoping, she benefitted from her dedication and extra hours in the gym. In the 2020-2021 season, Kennedy is second on the team in total points scored with 175 and is tied for first in total three-pointers made with 28. She’s also been able to contribute tremendously on the defensive side of the ball, ranking second on the team in steals with 22 and fifth in total rebounds with 57. Compare these numbers to last year, where she was only able to put up 53 points, seven three-pointers, 12 steals, and 15 total rebounds.
Kennedy’s improvements have led to a major uptick in time spent on the court, as she now starts every game and averages 30. They have also been a large reason why Marist has been able to find so much success in a season where many questioned the team’s ability to win after losing so many valuable players.
“Trinasia has been one of the main reasons why we have had the success that we’ve had this year after graduating so many outstanding seniors,” head coach Brian Giorgis said. “Her jump from a timid freshman to a confident, assertive starter has been one of the greatest improvements from one year to another in my 19-year tenure.”
Kennedy is a starter now and has grown as a scorer and a defensive presence. But there is one more part of her game that she wants to improve. An area that she has already begun to master off the court: leadership.
“I’ve been working a lot on my leadership almost as much as I work on my game because I know that my game can take me a lot of places,” Kennedy said. “And I watch and learn from Allie all the time because Allie is very vocal. So, that’s a part of my game that I think is going to the next level.”
As Kennedy said, senior point guard and captain Allie Best has played a major role in her development as a player and as a future leader, as Best has been a shining example of what it means to be a leader on the court.
Kennedy has also looked to assistant coaches Maggie Gallagher and Brittany Parker for guidance. Gallagher, who played for Marist from 2011 to 2015, has put in extra hours to teach Kennedy some of the game’s intricacies and mold her into a talented, versatile player. Parker, who Kennedy has credited as a role model in her life at Marist, has helped Kennedy with her role as the co-president of the BSAA.
“It’s really important to me that I have coach Parker because she is one of the few black, female role models that I have at Marist,” Kennedy said. “And Maggie, too. They’ve always really played a huge role in keeping me sane.”
Surrounding herself with people like Gallagher, Parker, and Best has been a key factor for Kennedy’s development in such a short time.
“The people that you let into your circle can either build you up or bring you down, and I think I’ve done a good job of having people in my circle that push me to be creative and change the narrative of what I’ve been through and where I’ve come from,” Kennedy said. “They push me to be the best person I can be.”
Kennedy has only begun to scratch the surface of the person, player, and leader that she can be, and there is no doubt that the people around her will push Kennedy to reach her true potential. And with the 2020-2021 season nearing its end, Kennedy will have the chance to take what she has learned in her breakout season and apply it to her offseason training. She’ll also take the lessons that she has learned from her first year as co-president of the BSAA and apply it to the expansion of the voice and role of the Black Student-Athlete on the Marist campus and in the neighboring communities.
So, don’t be surprised if you hear Kennedy’s name more often, whether it be on the front page of the local newspaper or over the speakers of the McCann Arena.
Edited by Bridget Reilly and Nicholas Stanziale
Photo Credit: Mike Cahill