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women's college basketball notebook

For McKenzie Forbes, transferring to Harvard has been a case of sibling revelry

Guard McKenzie Forbes, a transfer from Cal Berkeley, is currently Harvard's leading scorer at 16 points per game.Vera Nieuwenhuis/Associated Press

McKenzie Forbes dribbled between her legs, surveying the court from the left wing. Two quick righty dribbles off a ball screen later, the Harvard junior pulled up for a 3-pointer with just a few seconds remaining. Game.

She rushed to the scorer’s table after the buzzer, banged on it, and let out a yell. After a television interview, she shared a brief embrace with her brother, Mason Forbes, a senior on the Harvard men’s team.

“It’s just indescribable,” McKenzie said. “It’s like storybook moments, honestly.”

The scene during a Harvard basketball doubleheader last Saturday unfolded just the way McKenzie hoped when she transferred from Cal Berkeley. Brother and sister together again.

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Living together, this time in a mixed-gender suite in Lowell House on the opposite side of the country from their childhood home in Folsom, Calif., feels just like it did when they were growing up.

“Those are the moments that you picture, the moments that we’ll definitely cherish and remember,” Mason said.

A 6-foot “catch-all,” McKenzie is off to a stellar start with the Crimson (3-4), averaging a team-high 16 points per game to go with 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and a 43.9 percent 3-point shooting clip.

In her 40 years leading Harvard women’s hoops, coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said she has seen only one other player with McKenzie’s distinct skill — the ability to “out-slow” an opponent.

“But she’s quick,” Delaney-Smith said.

Come again?

“She just toys with you, watches you and reads you,” said Delaney-Smith, who is retiring after this year. “She’ll change pace and fool you again. She just has a bag of tricks.”

A highly touted recruit out of Folsom High School in 2018, McKenzie was ranked 35th in her class by ESPN and named both a McDonald’s All-American and a Jordan Brand Classic All-American. She chose Cal from a slew of offers and made the All-Pac-12 Freshman Honorable Mention Team in 2018-19.

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When Cal’s coach, Lindsay Gottlieb, took a job with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, McKenzie tossed her name in the transfer portal.

“I was her biggest recruiter, the biggest one not on payroll,” Mason said. “We’ve been super close, and I definitely wanted to be able to share these experiences with her. It’s been awesome.”

Mason, who is 16 months older than McKenzie, enrolled at Harvard in 2018 directly out of high school. He played a key reserve role his first two years before the Ivy League canceled the 2020-21 season. He has not played this season because of injury.

Harvard’s transfer admissions process is relentlessly competitive; less than 1 percent of applicants get in. With the deadline having passed for 2019-20 enrollment, McKenzie took a calculated risk. With her heart set on Harvard, she enrolled at a junior college, earning straight A’s to improve her chances. She received her Harvard acceptance in May 2020, but didn’t come to campus until this past fall because of the pandemic.

Two years without college basketball. One year of online classes. A long wait, but she is soaking up her Harvard experience.

“Coming in and hanging out with my teammates every day, those are the things that I think, even more so than playing, that I really don’t take for granted,” she said. “I’m having so much fun.”

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Benzan thriving

Speaking of Harvard, former Crimson guard Katie Benzan is a key member of No. 8 Maryland (7-2), averaging 12.7 points and 4.3 assists.

The 5-6 Benzan led the country in 3-point shooting percentage in her first season with the Terrapins and is now in her second year after all student-athletes received an extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic. It’s an opportunity not lost on her.

“I’m just, honestly, cherishing the present,” Benzan said. “This is my last season. I’ll have so many lasts, but I really just want to treat them as firsts.”

A Wellesley native and Nobles alum, Benzan earned First-Team All-Ivy League nods in all three of her Harvard seasons. She sat out of college hoops in 2019-20 while finishing up her psychology degree to preserve her final season of collegiate eligibility to compete at a higher level. There’s no doubt she’s there now, as the Terrapins have legitimate national championship aspirations.

“At Maryland, that family atmosphere builds a championship mind-set,” said Benzan, who is pursuing a master’s in journalism. “Those high aspirations come with pressure and a lot of responsibility, but we welcome that challenge.”

Honor roll

UMass graduate forward Sam Breen was named Atlantic 10 Player of the Week. Merrimack’s Kate Mager won Northeast Conference Player of the Week after breaking the program record for career 3-pointers at 190. And Northeastern freshman Claudia Soriano won Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Week and is among the nation’s leaders in steals.

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