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Bloodlines run deep 11/10/21

Kinzie Rushing has overcome many obstacles, including cancer

By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 

 

McKenzie Rushing couldn’t see herself wearing anything but green and gold. She couldn’t imagine a life without seeing her mom on the basketball court, either. 

 

But that doesn’t mean coaches’ kids get a free pass.  

 

“Being a coach’s kid is so tough,” Alma girls basketball coach Codey Mann said. “You’re expected to do everything right, you’re expected not to have bad days, and you’re expected to be a leader on and off the floor.”

 

“I have to really watch the way I act,” Rushing said. “It’s not good to act out, anyway, but they (regular kids) have a little more leeway, whereas, if I do something, everyone notices. 

 

“I kind of have to set an example.”

 

Rushing’s biggest fan, her mom and assistant coach Angela Rushing have been there since her first seventh-grade basketball practice.

 

“It’s not easy for coaches’ kids; it’s hard,” Angela Rushing said. “But it’s been pretty cool watching her play for my alma mater. It was neat getting to coach her, though it was not easy at all.”

 

The fact that McKenzie Rushing is even active, much less playing sports, brings a smile to Angela’s face. McKenzie was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a type of kidney cancer that usually affects children 5 and younger, in late January 2005. 

 

McKenzie wasn’t yet a year old. 

 

“We had a CT scan done, and it showed she had cancer at 9 months old,” Angela Rushing said. 

 

Back in 2005, just as McKenzie Rushing was learning to walk and crawl, much less survive, she was taken to St. Jude’s Hospital for an eight-hour surgery to have her tumor removed. 

 

Because she was so young, Rushing made a quick recovery. She has no recollection of the events, save the scar she still bears today that stretches across her stomach. 

 

“We were there for three months,” Angela Rushing said. “(But) we didn’t have to do any chemo or radiation. 

 

“God was definitely looking out for us.”

 

Initially, there were frequent visits to St. Jude. Today, McKenzie Rushing makes just one trek to St. Jude’s per year to hear the two words that once brought her mom to tears — cancer-free. 

 

Watching her blossom

 

Angela Rushing has split most of her 14 years coaching basketball between Alma Middle School and Alma High School — mornings at AMS and afternoons at either Crabtree Gym or Charles Dyer Arena. With the sometimes chaotic schedule come late-night dinner runs and even later homework contributions. 

 

Through it all, however, Angela Rushing's been afforded a front-row seat to watch McKenzie play sports.

 

“It’s cool seeing where she’s been and where she is now — how she’s put in the work and how she’s grown as a person,” Rushing said. “To me, the main thing is seeing her grow as a person. She’s not just an athlete, either. She has a 4.0 (grade point average).”

 

Twenty-eight years ago this season, Angela ran point for the Lady Airedales’ roster that included scoring phenom, Kim Sullivan. 

 

Now, she’s watching Kinzie hoop it up with the likes of Halyn Carmack, Lydia Mann, Samantha Crook, and Presli Taylor.

 

“I really like that we’re all together; it’s always been just her and I,” McKenzie Rushing said. “Sometimes it is a little hard, just because we are around each other so much. (But) I’m happy that we are.”

 

Hard work pays off

 

Although Rushing has become a solid soccer player, her first love remains basketball.

 

“It (soccer) helps with conditioning,” Rushing said. “But it also helps me get away from basketball, at least for a minute, but basketball is still my No. 1 (sport).

 

“But I’ve grown to love soccer, too.”

 

“When I first got here she was a sixth-grader who loved basketball,” Mann said. “To see her develop a love for the game, and get to a high level of varsity, too, is really neat. 

 

“It’s been really fun seeing her grow up and mature.”

 

“I’m a completely different player than I was in seventh grade,” Rushing said. “(But) I’m always in the gym and always putting in extra work.”

 

As for playing for the same school, her mom played for 2½ decades ago, there’s nothing better.

 

“I bleed green and gold,” Rushing said. “I can’t imagine not going to Alma and not being 

here.”