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Jan. 20, 2006

by Cathy Bongiovi-Stewart

Virginia sophomore Denesha Kenion was born and raised in the state of Maryland. Her hometown of Oxon is just 30 minutes for the College Park campus. But despite being recruited by the Terrapins, the Maryland native chose to pursue her academic and basketball careers at the University of Virginia.

“I picked UVa, because it’s better academically and athletically,” Kenion said. “I wanted to get a good degree from here. Plus I wanted to get away from home and explore the world a little bit.”

A two-time Street & Smith’s honorable mention All-American, Kenion was named All-Metro Washington D.C. in 2003 and honorable mention in 2002. She played point guard, shooting guard and small forward for Oxon Hill High School, earning the team’s MVP honor twice. Also a four-time first-team All-County honoree, Kenion won the Coach’s Award and was named Defensive Player of the Year for the third time as a senior. She finished her prep career ranked No. 20 on the All-Star Girls Report’s best shooting guard list.

Now in her second year as a Cavalier, Kenion has seen action in 36 games. The 5-9 guard has increased her contributions to the team. She saw action in 21 games with one start as a freshman, adding a then-career-high nine points at No. 8/4 North Carolina.

“Denesha came on strong at the close of the season last year,” head coach Debbie Ryan said. “Her speed, quickness and anticipation proved to be the spark we needed during crucial games. Denesha has improved all aspects of her game during the summer, and her added strength will help us to have good depth at the guard position.”

As a sophomore, she adds 4.8 points per game while dishing out 31 assists, second best on the squad, as a reserve point guard. After just 15 games this season, Kenion has already re-written her career highs in every category. She scored 13 points against No. 12 Minnesota in the Paradise Jam championship game. She also dished out a career-best six assists in the tourney opener against Alabama. The sophomore was the only non-starter named to the five-member All-Tournament Team.

“She’s just a great team player,” Ryan said. “She came in (against Alabama), played the whole first half and did a great job. (Against Minnesota) she had a career-high in the first half. Denesha just had a really solid tournament. She’s not even a starter and to make the all-tournament team is just tremendous.”

With her success on the basketball court, Kenion has also been successful in the classroom. The sophomore plans to major in psychology; however, her favorite class on Grounds so far has been sociology.

“Sociology is telling about the world and how things have been in the past.” Kenion shared, “and now in the present and in the future, too.”

Kenion has found that balancing basketball and school work takes effort.

“My biggest adjustment to college has been getting adjusted to new things, especially managing my time,” she said. “This is very big. You have to really manage your time in college, because that’s a big part of your life. You have to get away from all the other things and really focus on basically basketball and school.”

Kenion would like to become a police officer once her playing career is over. But there is plenty of basketball to be played before that happens.

“My goals for this season are to win the ACC, win the NCAA and just to get 21 wins and come out in the top 5 in our conference,” Kenion said. “(I want) to play the best that I can and to win a lot of games. (I want) to bring a lot of energy to the team and have everybody come on the floor each and every day in practice, too, to play as hard as they can.”

When she’s off the court and her studies are completed, Kenion likes to sleep.

“I love to sleep. I don’t know why,” Kenion said. “It’s always been something with me. My mother told me (I slept) all the time (as a baby).”

In addition to sleeping, Kenion loves to eat.

“I like to eat a lot, especially fried chicken,” she said.

But don’t ask her to cook.

“(I make) just peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and oodles of noodles.”

Denesha’s Favorites

Food:	Fried chicken & steakIce cream:	Vanilla with caramelColor:	Black, blue & silverWNBA Team:	New York LibertyActor:	Omar EppsActress:	Angela BassettTV Show:	MartinReality Show:	Fear FactorCD:	Destiny's ChildSpot on Grounds:	University Hall

On game day, I like to …
get a good meal and nap.

I love to cook …
fried chicken and shrimp.

Three words that best describe me are …
strong, goofy, respectful.

Nobody knows how much …
I love to sleep.

My advice to a young athlete is …
strive for your dreams, because they do come true.

One thing I always pack for road trips is…
my family photo and gum.

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