For 154 straight games, over a period of five years, Southwestern High School senior basketball player Kennedy Harris was in the Lady Warriors' starting line-up.
On Dec. 5, 2015, the young eighth-grader Kennedy Harris made her first start on the varsity team in Lady Warriors' season-opener on the road against state-ranked Louisville Mercy. In her very first start, the young Harris scored nine points, hit a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line, and pulled down four rebounds.
From her starting debut nearly five years ago, Kennedy Harris never missed a single game for period of nearly 1,459 days.
Not a cold, or the flu, or a sprained ankle or a sore back kept her off the hardwood over the course of her entire high school basketball career.
"My streak of starting 154 games straight wasn't necessarily a goal I had, but more of a pride thing," Harris admitted. "I first started as an eighth-grader. At such a young age, starting made me want to work that much harder to prove myself. I wasn't going to let anyone outwork me and take my spot."
And no one even came close to taking her spot after her first start in 2015.
With the long blonde hair and a bronzed complexion, Kennedy Harris might look more like a model than a basketball player. But her hard work and 'never-give-up' attitude has made her one of the best basketball players to ever put on a Lady Warriors' uniform.
At a very young age, Kennedy Harris fell in love with the game of basketball. She also realized, at a young age, that she was not the tallest, not the fastest or the strongest player on the court So, she began to work that much harder to make herself a better basketball player and, along the way, she refused to ever miss a game or practice.
In the end, Kennedy Harris' determination paid off with huge dividends in the form of some of the program's best stats. Harris is the Lady Warriors' fourth all-time leading scorer with 1,733 career points. Over six seasons, Harris hit 290 three-pointers, pulled down 419 rebounds, and hit nearly 80 percent of her 405 career free throw attempts.
But beyond her outstanding individual stats, Harris contributions to the team led to a region championship, a state runner-up finish, six straight district championships and 142 team wins in six years.
"Basketball has definitely made me grow and mature as a person, not only as an athlete but also as a person," Harris stated. "Coming in as a seventh grader, I had a lot of growing up to do. Basketball has taught me that you have to work for everything you earn and things aren't handed to you. You have to continue to push yourself in things that you want wether that be basketball related or life. You have to surround yourself with people who want the same things and goals you do."
Stephen Butcher, who coached Harris five of her six years at Southwestern, gave Harris a lot of credit for the Lady Warriors' team success over the years.
"Kennedy was instrumental to a lot of the success we had in my time coaching her," Butcher stated. "I knew she could shoot the basketball before she came to the high school, but I never expected her to be as good of a defender as she was."
More recently, Kennedy Harris was awarded again for her outstanding career at Southwestern, as she signed a letter-of-intent to play her college ball at Transylvania University.
"Kennedy is a smart player and she will figure out what it will take to carve out a role at Transy and she'll have a very good career there," Butcher stated.
Over the past six years, Harris' contributions to the teams she has played on has resulted in lost of wins, and Harris has never been on a losing team since she started playing organized basketball.
"I've been on multiple basketball teams throughout my years of playing," Harris stated. "Being on teams who never had a losing record made it just that more fun to play. The girls I've played with were very talented and majority are playing at the next level (college). Being surrounded by good players made me compete and realize we are all after the same thing."
Throughout her career, current Southwestern girls basketball coach Junior Molden has coached Harris on several different teams. Molden stated he was alway amazed how she played hard, even when she was not feeling her best.
"Kennedy's work ethic stands out most to me," Molden stated. "There was times where she didn't feel well and had injuries she played through, but she wasn't going to miss practice or games. In my two years as assistant coach at Southwestern, she would message me hours before practice most days and make sure I would be staying after so she could get as many reps in as possible. That work ethic stood out most to me with Kennedy. I look forward to watching her continued success at Transy."
Kennedy Harris is now faced with an even bigger and more difficult challenge of competing at the collegiate level. But Harris stated she will meet her new challenge with the same determination she gave at the high school level.
But before he she takes on the ranks of college basketball, Harris reflected on her time at Southwestern High School.
"The experience I had playing ball at Southwestern is a reflection of who I am today,' Harris stated. "I came in as a seventh-grader, who had to practice and play with girls that were much older. I had to grow up fast and learn how to compete at a high level. It's competitive for sure. You had to work for everything you earned. I was surrounded by girls who continued to push each other and coaches that wouldn't accept anything but my best effort. You are who you surround yourself with and I couldn't have been around a better group of well-rounded people."
"My best memory of high school basketball was winning region and going to Rupp (Arena)," Harris stated. "At one point, we were ranked fifth in our region that year. Everyone was against us that year and didn't think we would win region, let alone play for a state title. The feeling you have winning region and playing at Rupp is something you just can't put into words. It's always been my goal to win a region before I left Southwestern. Playing ball throughout the years at Southwestern was one of the best experiences."
STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.