SHORT GAP, W.Va — Frankfort head coach Mike Miller still remembers the first time he saw Makenna Douthitt.
Miller recounts how the little pigtailed blonde, no more than three feet tall, attended a fundamental clinic in fifth grade. She was so small she could barely keep her shorts up as she dribbled through the drills with ease.
Even then, he recognized she had something special, and Douthitt would realize her potential. And after a standout senior campaign, Douthitt was voted the Times-News girls basketball Player of the Year by 13 area coaches.
“It feels really good, I wasn’t expecting it,” said Douthitt, who will continue her basketball career at Potomac State College next year. “It took a lot of hard work. It takes a team effort, and I’m thankful to have had a great team around me and supporting me.”
Douthitt won by a landslide, collecting eight votes for the award. Southern junior Brooke Davis finished second after garnering three nods.
Coming into the 2019-20 season, the Falcons needed someone to step up on the offensive end to fill the void left by the graduation of Abby Beeman, who recently won Pennsylvania State Athletic Conferernce Freshman of the Year at Shepherd.
While it was impossible to replace a force like Beeman with just one player, Douthitt stepped up in a major way.
She tied for the No. 4 scorer in the area with 15.4 points per game, fifth-best rebounder at 7.6 a contest and was the fifth-best distributor at 3.2 dimes a night. In addition to area POY, she was named to the West Virginia Class AA All-State second team and Potomac Valley Conference Player of the Year.
“Abby is phenomenal. Knowing we were going to lose such a big part of our team, we had to play together to build momentum,” Douthitt said. “We had to figure out how to play without someone who runs the game for you.”
In addition to adjusting to life without Beeman, Douthitt was still trying to get comfortable down low. A former point guard, Douthitt was moved to the post in 10th grade following a growth spurt. But she proved to be more than comfortable in her final season at Frankfort.
That guard experience, according to Miller, was a big reason why Douthitt is such a tough matchup for opponents. She can bring it up the floor herself and run the fast break, shoot from the outside or post up smaller players on the block.
But in Miller’s eyes, Douthitt’s biggest asset was her leadership ability on a Falcon squad that went 23-2, coming up just short of a trip to the state tournament in Charleston.
“Makenna was that calming presence,” he said. “One thing you can’t get enough of is leadership. She knows how to communicate without ever putting anyone down. The way she handles the other players, supporting them, you can’t coach that. Either you have leadership skills or you don’t.
“She cares about everybody, the team, and that’s what it’s all about.”
True to form, Douthitt was quick to thank all the people that helped her along the way. Her travel coaches Brandon Paris, Lamar Smith and Brady Engle were pivotal in her development as a player.
Still, enough can’t be said about Douthitt’s consistency, which played a big part in Frankfort’s 19-game winning streak. Even if her teammates were struggling, the senior always seemed to be engaged on both sides of the floor.
“I just go into every game like it’s a state championship game,” she said. “Sometimes it’s hard not to play down to the inexperienced teams. This year, it was my last year, so I just played every game like it was my last.”
Southern head coach Rodger Bowman saw just how dangerous Douthitt was first hand when the two teams met in Oakland in February. She tallied a game-high 29 points in Frankfort’s come-from-behind road victory in a battle of the best girls basketball squads in the area.
“She was very consistent, worked hard offensively and defensively, and she was a very good rebounder,” Bowman said. “She was overshadowed a little bit by Abby Beeman the previous years, but we knew that she was a very good player. This year she was able to show how good she really was.”
Although her Frankfort career has met its conclusion, Douthitt has achieved her dream of continuing to play basketball at the next level.
Her family and the local Falcon fans, she says, were as much of a source for her success as anyone.
“Thank you to all the people who supported me,” she said. “The amount of support was amazing. My family was always there with me. My aunt, uncle, mom, dad and sisters took every chance to come see me. And of course, all glory to god. Without him, none of this would have been possible.”
Alex Rychwalski is a sportswriter for the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.