Jen McKenzie sat in a nearly empty Halifax gymnasium a number of years ago.
After watching a high-level women’s basketball game during a summer tournament, McKenzie and a crew of observers talked about the need for something, something more than just a weekend of serious competition once or twice a year.
A few years later, chatter of something more was in the air.
It all culminated with the Maritime Women’s Basketball Association being formed. Hit the fast forward button, the league is already preparing for its third year of operation in the spring of 2024.
McKenzie is now front and centre as the leader of the MWBA, unanimously elected to become the league’s second commissioner.
The Dartmouth, NS, native succeeds Timberlea’s Tasia McKenna, who stepped down after a remarkable three-year run from helping spawn and lead the MWBA through its first two years at the helm.
McKenna fulfilled her three-year term and opted to step down, paving the way for McKenzie.
She embodies what the MWBA is all about.
From coordinating officials and minor officials for the six-team league that launched in April, 2022, McKenzie now assumes the top post.
She is uniquely familiar with the MWBA and can’t wait to get started in her new role.
‘I was absolutely thrilled when the MWBA came together and I have loved everything about it since its inception,’ said McKenzie. ‘It just brings such joy to so many people from inside the league to those on the outside.’
Well recognized and well respected, McKenzie is certainly a familiar face in Maritime basketball circles.
Her love of game runs deep.
McKenzie is a staple at the Atlantic University Sport and Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association levels as an official. She also officiated professionally in the National Basketball League of Canada and has made her mark on the MWBA as one of its top referees.
She is a Level IV official under the International Basketball Federation (FIBA).
An injury limited her officiating last year, but she is back on the floor, whether it be university or a local pickup circuit on Sunday nights.
A multi-sport athlete, she played with Acadia University Axewomen before playing at the professional level in Belgium and Australia.
McKenzie turned to coaching in Nova Scotia before opting to become an official.
She probably never thought about actually leading a league, but it’s not surprising.
Although she will work within the MWBA boardroom, McKenzie isn’t going to be sidelined. Showing her passion for the game, she will continue to officiate.
‘We spoke at length about a dual role when we knew Tasia was departing and it was indicative of the passion of women in sport when the teams supported my desire to continue officiating,’ she said. ‘All of this means the world to me. The MWBA is entering its third year and the bar keeps getting higher. It’s not just the players that make the league so exciting. It’s the involvement of coaches, managers, athletic therapists, fans and our incredibly valued corporate partners. It’s incredible to be involved and I look forward to learning even more.’
McKenzie will work closely with the league’s executive members including newly minted vice commissioner Anna Lee LeBlanc of Moncton and treasurer Jeff White of Saint John.
She will also be in close contact with team general managers and Halifax-based Sports & Entertainment Atlantic (S|E|A), the league’s Sponsorship Marketing Service.
LeBlanc takes over the vice-commissioner role from Lezlie States of Halifax. States, like McKenna, had been with the MWBA for three years.
The work has already begun for McKenzie.
Scheduling for 2024 is well under way, talk of expansion is in the air and S|E|A is out doing its thing to reach even more potential partners.
All with an eye on games unfolding.
Winter is coming, but spring is on the minds of many in the MWBA.
‘Our MWBA athletes are stronger, faster, creative, and want to play and compete against the best,’ said McKenzie. ‘That’s what the MWBA brings every game. We watch players deeply committed to the league, to their team and to each other. It’s a gift to unwrap every game.’