For Kenzie Sirowich of Seymour, it was a court appearance she could not wait to make.
After missing much of her freshmen and sophomore seasons on the basketball court due to knee injuries, Sirowich returned this winter and has been leading the team in scoring while helping Seymour to a 4-1 record.
The junior guard made her return to the court one to remember, scoring 28 points while adding 10 rebounds, 7 steals and 4 assists in Seymour’s 57-52 win over St. Paul on opening night.
“It was the best feeling in the world. That feeling you get of tiredness that you get after giving everything you have,” Sirowich said. “Having that feeling again was the best. It was so great being able to play with my teammates who I couldn’t play with for two years. Being able to play and contribute to the team again is the best feeling ever. The mental part of it is the hardest. My first game back it was like ‘OK this is the court I tore it on’. You have to get over that mental barrier. Once I did that, I let loose and everything got back to normal.”
Sirowich has not slowed down with 26 against Oxford in a win, 30 in a win against Woodland and 25 in loss to Holy Cross. She posted double-doubles in each game.
“Her vision of the court is amazing. Her individual talent with the ball handling, passing and scoring are all there but her vision on the court is amazing,” Seymour coach Brian Cleveland said. “Her tenacity on defense helps create offense. She is always in attack mode. She adds a whole other element to the game of playing faster and we are still trying to catch up with her sometimes.”
It has been a long time coming for Sirowich, who played just four games as a freshman and missed her entire sophomore season.
Four games into her freshmen season in a game at home against Sacred Heart, Sirowich drove in the lane and planted but was cut off by a defender and heard a pop from her right knee.
It was the worst-case scenario, torn ACL, MCL and meniscus for the guard already averaging 19 points a game.
She went through surgery a month later with doctors weaving in part of her hamstring to replace the ACL and stitching her meniscus together.
Her 10-month rehab began the next day.
Multiple days a week of lifting, squatting, pressing and stationary bike riding all working toward her return.
Sirowich played in her sophomore volleyball season on the Seymour team that won the CIAC Class M State Championship.
In her first fall-league basketball game that year, the unthinkable happened.
One minute into the game, Sirowich stepped on an opponent’s foot and heard that horrible pop again.
Same knee, same injury. Sophomore basketball season over before it started.
“It was worse the second time because I knew what was ahead,” Sirowich said. “All the rehab and physical therapy. Then watching my teammates and sister (Kolby) play on the team I was a part of and not being able to be there with them was tough. At the beginning, mentally and physically it was harder the second time. They took a graff from my patella tendon the second time, the first time it was my hamstring. It was more pain after the surgery. Once I got into the rehab it was all about ‘I’m coming back, I’m not injured anymore. The comeback starts now.’”
Sirowich credits her family, especially older sister Kolby, with getting her through the second round.
Kolby, an all-state volleyball and softball player, was on the basketball team as a senior when Kenzie was a sophomore.
Every day after the second injury, Kolby would write an inspirational message on a white board in Kenzie’s room.
Along with Kenzie and Kolby, the Sirowich family has strong bloodlines at Seymour. Kenzie’s mother attended the school; her father K.C. was all-state in football and the 1986 state high school Player of the Year, later playing at Syracuse; and her brothers Tyler and Zack both played football and baseball.
“I don’t know how she did it?,” K.C. Sirowich said. “The mental toll of the second one was so great. After the first surgery you have hope and belief and you are looking to build off the positivity. Everything became questionable after the second injury. Her sisters and brothers got her through it.”
K.C. said the worst part was seeing Kenzie away from the one place that made her complete, the basketball court.
“It was really tough to see the second one. I mean, can this kid catch a break?” K.C. said. “She is happiest when playing basketball. She just loves playing basketball, loves watching it, loves talking about it but loves playing so much. The best part of the last two weeks since she came back is that we finally got our kid back. She’s finally herself again.”
Since returning, she has gained confidence every game and practice, overcoming the mental anguish caused by the two injuries.
“Taking the two years she missed, there is a lot more to getting back on the court. It’s mental, it’s physical and she just keeps stepping up,” Cleveland said. “The first time she went down at practice, everyone took a deep breath but she popped up and said she was good. She just wanted to get right back in the drill. Then we had a scrimmage and her legs were taken out from under her and she landed on the leg. My trainer and I were both holding our breath but it had to be worse for her dad.”
Sirowich has been playing point guard and has deep shooting range but can also slide down into the low post with ease when guarded by a smaller player.
She has developed into a true inside/outside threat and one of the NVL’s top scorers.
While missing the two high school seasons was hard emotionally, missing two AAU seasons hurt in terms of being seen by college coaches.
Sirowich plans to play for CT Supreme Elite this coming offseason and is in the process of putting together highlights to send out to coaches.
For now, she is focused on playing with her teammates and pushing for a NVL championship.
She takes nothing for granted and is thankful for every moment.
“I give everything I can on the court. You never know when the game will be your last game,” Sirowich said. “Basketball is the most important thing to me. I love challenges. Competitiveness everywhere, all the time. I will not back from any challenge that comes at me.”