Nadine McKenzie visited her daughter’s grave Friday afternoon to tell Shamoya McKenzie her dream had come to true.
There is bittersweet, and there is bitter and sweet.
Nadine will always wake up to the bitter reality of having her lost her daughter, a victim caught in the crossfire of senseless gun violence on New Year’s Eve in her hometown of Mount Vernon.
Shamoya was a star basketball player and a conscientious eighth grade student at the K-8 Graham School in Mount Vernon. She was 13 years old but already stood 6-foot-2 and she was reaching for the stars.
Her dreams were to play college ball at UConn, the preeminent program in women’s college basketball, and the New York Liberty, her favorite WNBA team.
“She loved Mount Vernon, she loved New York, she never wanted to go anywhere else,’’ Nadine told MSGNetworks.com. “She would always show me her report card and say, ‘Mom, I’m doing good in school so I can make my dreams come true.’
“She would have been so happy to know what the Liberty did for her. I’m going to tell her. I’m going to stand over her and say, ‘Baby, you made it.’’’
What the Liberty did Thursday night during the WNBA Draft left Nadine’s voice cracking and breaking.
Tina Charles, a New York native and former UConn star – in other words – an older version of Shamoya – stepped to the microphone at Clyde Frazier’s Wine and Dine restaurant, where the Liberty hosted its draft party, and announced the team was selecting McKenzie with the 37th pick in the WNBA Draft.
— New York Liberty (@nyliberty) April 14, 2017
Thirty-six players were officially drafted, making the selection of McKenzie an honorary pick, but for her family, it was the most compassionate and empathetic moment since Shamoya’s tragic death on Dec. 31st.
“When the phone rang and the gentleman said it was Isiah Thomas, I said, ‘I know you. I used to watch you play,’’’ said Nadine. “A gentleman from the Liberty had called earlier to say someone from the team would call me but I didn’t know why or who.
“The Liberty has been so good to our family. They sent flowers and a jersey to the funeral. But I never would have thought they would remember her.’’
The gentleman that called is Liberty president Isiah Thomas. He personally phoned to tell Nadine her daughter was a member of the Liberty.
It’s been about three and one-half months since Shamoya was killed but she will be a Liberty player forever.
“She started crying before I could even tell her we had drafted Shamoya,’’ Thomas told MSGNetworks.com. “They were tears of joy and tears of sorrow. It sent chills through my body.’’
“For us to be able to give her family a little a soft spot in their heart makes us as an organization feel good. When we learned her dream was to play in the WNBA for the Liberty, we wanted to make that come true.’’
One never knows if a childhood dream will become reality but McKenzie was in all. She was playing forward and center but coaches were starting to groom her play guard. A 6-2 woman’s player with guard skills is Kristaps Porzingis-like in the WNBA.
McKenzie already was playing on the Mount Vernon High School junior varsity and the Mount Vernon Junior Knights, a boys team. She wore No. 30 because she idolized Steph Curry’s skill, work ethic and the way he carries himself.
“She was on her way,’’ Dwayne Murray, the director of the Junior Knights told reporters in Mount Vernon. “If there was a caption you could put on Shamoya, it’s, ‘She was on her way,’ in a big way.’’
The Liberty made sure Shamoya Mckenzie got there.