Penney's in Heaven
As captain of the Badger basketball team, Kirk Penney finds himself in a unique role this year. He's the team's only senior, a lone graybeard among a bunch of guys who barely need to shave.
But Penney has plenty of experience at being in a class by himself. When you grow up shooting baskets in a country that favors cricket bats and rugby balls, you get used to being on your own.
Penney was born in
Yet Penney's course was clear from
an early age — at least to him. When he was twelve, he wrote a school essay in
which he outlined his plans to play basketball in the
He was. "I had this whole scenario in my mind of what would go on. I thought it would just be awesome," Penney says. "And to be honest, it's been even better to experience it. When you're actually living a dream, it's so much more than dreaming a dream."
To be fair, Penney's visions
didn't exactly come true. He had imagined suiting up for UCLA, whose games
sometimes came on television in the middle of the night, making it the only
But he couldn't be happier with
how it's played out. "I'm just so proud to be a part of the
Penney, a six-foot, five-inch guard whose jump shot is as soft as his humble, friendly manner, broke into the lineup as a freshman in 1999-2000, during the Badgers' run to the Final Four. Last season, he emerged as a star, leading the team in scoring, averaging more than fifteen points per game, and helping the Badgers earn a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship. Along the way, he became only the fifth UW men's player since 1948 to earn consensus All-Big Ten honors.
He's done it all while keeping up
a double life — becoming a Badger by winter, and a Kiwi by summer. Penney has
spent nearly every moment away from school competing for his home country,
appearing in the 2000 Olympics, the 2001 Goodwill Games, and this year's World
Basketball Championships. At that last event, held this summer in
"The whole country was behind
us. It was a really special experience," says Penney, who was
And so has it been a great run for
Penney. He's determined to cherish his final year in
— Michael Penn