MACOMB, Ill. -- Kennedy Flanagan is embracing the chance to step outside of her comfort zone and step into a leadership role off the basketball court.
A former Highland all-state basketball player and redshirt freshman at Western Illinois University, Flanagan was selected to represent the Leathernecks and the Summit League by serving on the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Student-Athlete Engagement Group.
The group features student-athletes from 32 D-I conferences and will serve as an amplifying voice for women's basketball players on key initiatives, legislation and various other issues. Student-athletes were nominated by their head coach through the WBCA NCAA Division I Conference Captains program.
"It's really exciting and a great opportunity," Flanagan said. "When (WIU coach JD Gravina) texted me, I wasn't sure what this was going to be. He said it was going to be like the SAC program here at Western, but for the entire NCAA. I was kind of excited, but it was out of my comfort zone. It was exciting to be a part of it."
The group has met once to date with the coronavirus pandemic the main topic of discussion.
"Going into it, I didn't really know what it was going to be about," Flanagan said. "They had said important topics, and it mainly was about COVID. We got to hear how different universities are doing testing and kind of hearing everybody's input on how they think practices and games should go."
Flanagan said it was truly a give-and-take of information and ideas.
"They were listening to our input," Flanagan said. "I got to hear how other universities were doing things and other people's views on how much testing we need and how we should go about doing things this year. Some teams have testing every week and some people haven't been tested since they arrived in the summer."
Flanagan, a 6-foot forward, was a 1,000-point career scorer at Highland who earned all-state honors and academic all-state plaudits from the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association as a senior when she averaged 18 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots. She redshirted last winter at WIU.
Although she hadn't asserted herself as a leader with the Leathernecks, this is giving her a chance.
"Every meeting, I have to report back to the team," Flanagan said. "I don't necessarily like public speaking, but it's kind of nice to do it within the team. I feel knowledgeable about stuff going on in our meetings and I get to share that. It's helping me be a leader in that regard."
It will eventually help her be a leader on the floor as well.
"Honestly, there were a couple of girls where I could totally see them doing this and being into it," Flanagan said. "But I'm really glad he chose me. It is out of my comfort zone, but I need to do things like this and I'm really enjoying it."