Just recently, Makayla Denson was asked to explain her passion and adoration for softball.
As usual, speaking of the sport brought her to smiles.
“I would categorize myself as being a multisport student athlete,” Denson said during a recent interview with longtime journalist Andre Johnson. “That means student first, then athletics…basketball and softball. But softball is my passion. At times, it is very difficult to compass. But you have to keep telling yourself, ‘You can do it’ and to ‘Keep pushing forward.’”
While the softball diamond undoubtedly has proven to be a place of solitude and refuel for Denson, a rising senior first baseman at Bremen High School in Midlothian, Illinois, this prep athletic standout doesn’t shy away from the notion that she boasts lofty aspirations of extending her playing career beyond high school.
According to Makayla Denson’s mother, Robin Williams-Denson, her daughter has expressed considerable interest in attending Tennessee State University either on a softball scholarship or taking necessary steps to join to the Lady Tigers’ program as a walk on.
Besides TSU, the 17-year-old Makayla Denson also has expressed interests in Texas Southern University, Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Bethune-Cookman University in Florida, and nearby Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
Regardless of which school she attends, Makayla Denson said being afforded the opportunity to play collegiate softball would make reality a dream to which she has clung for some time.
“That is my short-term goal, to play softball in college and continue to learn new ideas and make new friends along this journey,” Makayla Denson said.
Having first played competitive softball when she was eight years ago, Makayla Denson admittedly has since grown a deep admiration for the sport, having also been afforded the golden opportunity to travel throughout the region and heartland for AAU and club teams.
“Every year since then, I’ve played on different levels such as in-house recreational local softball teams to AAU 18-and-under travel softball,” Makayla Denson explains.
In addition, this speedy, durable athlete was the catalyst of AAU 16-and-under Chicago-area Lady Monarch travel team that competed in a variety of local and state tournaments last year.
To her credit, Makayla Denson has become a fixture on the Chicago-area prep softball circuit since transitioning to the high school ranks three years ago, a trend about which she hopes college coaches will take into account as she continues to lobby for a full-ride athletic scholarship.
“We decided to let her play a sport, so she chose softball and basketball at the same time,” said Williams-Denson, explaining her daughter’s rise as a softball standout. “But when we put her on an in-house softball team at (the age of) seven, we ended up coaching. She naturally knows what to do and everybody wanted her and said she was a natural (athlete). She plays first base; that’s her love, but she really plays all positions except pitcher. People look at her and think, ‘Oh, she’s not going to do anything.’ And then she blows them away.”
All of which — according to Makayla Denson’s mother — means chances appear highly likely that her daughter will be afforded the chance to suit up in a collegiate softball uniform sometime in the Spring of 2017.
After all, she’s been considered a fixture on the Illinois-area softball diamond for some time.
“We always taught her to do her best and complete what she starts,” Williams-Denson said. “She is a perfectionist in school, sports or whatever else she does. Coaches used to get upset with her dad because he would encourage her to do her. She would get upset if she made errors — which I can’t remember many — because she wanted to make a name for herself.”
So far, so good.
Chances are, the competitive softball circuit hasn’t seen the last of this dual-sport athlete.
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Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.