KINGWOOD — It was Dec. 15 when senior Makenzie Friend made Preston High history.
The Knights were in the midst of what would end as a 55-38 victory against Elkins when Friend drew a foul from her defender. She calmly took to the charity stripe, while her parents and her head coach — Brian Miller — held their breath.
The first free throw went up and bounced off the rim, a missed opportunity. Friend quickly shook it off, and prepared for her next shot.
The second one didn’t miss.
Friend didn’t know it at the time, but she had just become Preston girls’ basketball’s first 1,000 point scorer.
“I didn’t realize until my parents held up a sign and coach Miller told me, ‘Congratulations,’ ” Friend said.
The 1,000-point milestone is an impressive one for high school basketball, so much so that many schools often have 1,000 point clubs, with banners hanging in their gymnasiums to honor the members.
To put it into perspective, the average West Virginia high school basketball team plays 22 games in the regular season. Discounting tournament runs, a player would have to appear in every regular season game of his or her career while averaging over 11 points.
“It’s a great accomplishment for her,” Miller said. “No matter how many girls get to 1,000 points in the future, she will always be the first.”
For years, Friend dreamed of the day she would finally achieve the accomplishment. Now that she made it, she finds herself humbled.
“It’s been my goal since sixth grade,” she said. “Now that I actually achieved it, it’s truly an honor.”
Friend cites “Coach Carter” as her favorite movie, which makes sense, considering her discipline and work ethic.
Wikipedia describes the movie as “based on the true story of Richmond High School basketball coach Ken Carter (portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson), who made headlines in 1999 for benching his undefeated high school basketball team due to poor academic results.”
“As a player, she’s a hard worker,” Miller said. “She has put a lot of time into being a good player.”
In Miller’s mind, the dedication Friend has for her sport demonstrates why she has achieved such success. After all, there is truly no substitute for hard work, and Miller isn’t the only coach who will vouch for that fact.
“There is no secret formula to being a good player,” Miller said. “The formula is a lot of hard work and consistency. She’s been that in the past.”
Friend isn’t shy about letting people know what it took to get where she’s at, either. She poured a lot of sweat and tears onto more than a few courts in the goal of becoming a better player, and worked voraciously to craft every facet of her game into that of a champion.
“Since freshman year, I’ve done conditioning, weight lifting and lessons to better my performance,” Friend said. “I’ve also spent a lot of alone time in the gym, shooting for two or three hours a day.”
However, no athlete is complete without a support system, and front and center for Friend is Miller. Just as Ken Carter became more than a coach for Timo Cruz and Kenyon Stone, the relationship goes beyond coach and athlete for Miller and Friend.
“He’s more than just a coach to me, he’s a father figure,” Friend said. “He’s pushed me and given me every opportunity to get me to where I’m at today.”
With that one free throw — and 999 other points, of course — the standard for a Preston girls’ basketballer suddenly got a lot higher.
“As far as the accomplishment for the program, well, we always talk about raising the bar,” Miller said. “We always say the goal is to be better today than we were yesterday. This accomplishment raises that bar.”
Now that Friend has started the girls’ 1,000 point club, every girl who laces her shoes for the Knights will be aiming to join her, as well as surpass her point total. Miller hopes that it will spur more competition within the program.
“There is always someone out there that wants to beat the record. This will raise the bar for someone else to try and surpass,” Miller said. “As long as the bar keeps getting raised, that means this program keeps getting better.”
It’s not just the standard being set for the program either. The example that Friend sets in the community has earned admiration as well.
“She gives the elementary kids and such an example of what to do,” Miller said. “We can tell them to look at what she did and how she got here. She is a good role model for the young kids throughout the county.”
When she was 12 years old, Friend likely never dreamed that her 1,000- point goal would mean raising the entire standard of Preston basketball, as well as the standard for the youth of Preston County.
Then again, that’s just how it goes when you rewrite the narrative.