By Noah Gurzenski | Staff Writer
When asked about Morgan Korinek ’12’s most valuable asset on the court, Head Women’s Basketball Coach Suzanne Helfant replied without hesitation: “She had a motor that never quit.” Two years after crossing the commencement stage, that motor has carried Korinek back to Kenyon, where she serves as an assistant under Helfant.
A member of the Kenyon Ladies from 2009-12, Korinek distinguished herself as one of the best to play the game at Kenyon. After Korinek started for the Ladies as a first year, the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) recognized her as the Newcomer of the Year for the 2009-10 season. It was an auspicious start for Korinek, and her following seasons did not disappoint.
By the time the final buzzer sounded on Korinek’s playing career, the three-time All-NCAC forward had worked her way toward the top of multiple all-time statistical categories at Kenyon, including steals per game (first, with 2.4), field goal percentage (second, at .530), total rebounds (second, with 790) and free throws made (third, with 255). After her senior season, Korinek was named her team’s Most Valuable Player in the Jump25.com Ohio College All-Star Game, a competition that included Ohio basketball players from all three divisions of the NCAA.
“She was just a player that outhustled people all the time,” Helfant said. “She continuously worked and worked and worked both in her role as a basketball player on the floor and in her role as a teammate on the floor.”
Athletically gifted at a young age, Korinek could tell early on that she’d be playing competitive sports in college.
“When I was in fifth grade I was like, oh, I’ll play volleyball, basketball, soccer,” Korinek said, laughing. “Once I got to my freshman year of high school, I was like, I definitely want to play basketball once I’m in college, that’s what I’m going to focus on.”
Kenyon, with a student body currently composed of approximately 30 percent student athletes, stood out to Korinek during her college search as a school that sought to provide for the complete student athlete.
“Before I decided to go into coaching, I wanted to be a doctor, so I definitely wanted the basketball experience, but I wanted a good academic experience as well,” Korinek said. “And Kenyon definitely fit that profile well.”
In her visit to Kenyon with Helfant, Korinek recalled that both the unity and the competitive work ethic of the women’s basketball program particularly appealed to her.
“[Helfant] talked about the family style of the program, she talked about challenging me from day one,” Korinek said. “I was attracted to that idea of being at a place where I was challenged both academically and athletically.”
Once at Kenyon, Korinek thrived on the court both as a player and a leader, and Helfant named her a co-captain before Korinek’s junior season.
“It fit her like a glove,” Helfant said. “I think it was a great learning experience for her as a junior, and then she stepped into it as a senior and has been one of the program’s best leaders and captains and one of the most committed and invested people that we’ve had in this program.”
During her two seasons as co-captain for the Ladies, Korinek played alongside the junior and senior members of the current Kenyon women’s basketball squad. As a coach, Korinek reflected on the advantages that come with having played with half of the team.
“A big part of coaching [is] learning how to read your players — what makes them go. With those two classes, I had two years of playing with them and developed with them that relationship, so I kind of came back and I already had that relationship in place,” Korinek said.
Having played with Korinek through her sophomore year at Kenyon, Co-Captain Autumn Anderson ’14 remembers Korinek as a tough player to go up against in practice.
“I guarded Coach Korinek in practice as a freshman and a sophomore, which was a little bit of a challenge at times,” Anderson said with a laugh. “But the best part about it was that throughout practice she was constantly giving me encouragement and support.”
While on the court with Korinek, both Anderson and fellow Co-Captain Maureen Hirt ’14 could tell that their former teammate was bound for a coaching position after college.
“You could just tell,” Hirt said. “When her career was over you could tell that she still wanted to get back to basketball. I think it’s something that was so ingrained in her as a person that she just wanted to continue to influence people as she influenced [Anderson and me] as leaders for the program.”
Following her senior season at Kenyon, Korinek planned to spend two years as an assistant coach at Bethany College in West Virginia to complete her master’s degree in education. But when an opening appeared on the Kenyon coaching staff, the opportunity was too good to ignore.
“The spot opened up a year earlier and it was kind of a tough decision for me to leave Bethany early,” Korinek, who is finishing her master’s program from Gambier, said. “But ultimately I knew that it was an opportunity that I couldn’t know if it would come around again or if the timing would be right, so it kind of made the timing right.”
Going into the home stretch of the regular season, Anderson said that Korinek has been a meaningful addition to the team’s coaching staff.
“She compliments Coach Helfant very well,” Anderson said. “It’s very easy to have her as a mediator between Coach Helfant and the team, which I think is the defining role of an assistant coach.”
After setting the standard for Kenyon women’s basketball as a player, Korinek hopes to take care of some unfinished business as a coach, and help bring an NCAC title back to Gambier.
“All the personal accolades, that stuff, I could have done without, but I really wanted to win a championship,” Korinek said. “As a coach, especially at Kenyon, I want to help the program get back to winning a championship. That’s definitely a goal of mine.”
Helfant said she sees a bright future in coaching for Korinek.
“I do believe that this is something that she has a passion for and really wants to contribute to the greater good of basketball, and I think that because of her work ethic she is going to be a great leader,” Helfant said. “A person to kind of carry the torch for basketball coaches.”
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