Basketball before running
Baldwin High School senior Kelsey Verhaeghe has spent the last few months debating her college future and whether she wanted to continue her athletic career.
She could have chosen cross country, track, basketball or nothing at all. The decision seemed difficult ... or maybe not.
"I didn't know if I really wanted to do a sport or not in college," Verhaeghe said. "If I didn't, I thought about Missouri State a lot. Then I decided I wanted to play basketball."
Although Verhaeghe was a state medalist in cross country and track during her four years at BHS, the choice to play basketball in college was fairly easy.
"The choice not to run was a little bit tough," Verhaeghe said. "I've always liked basketball better. It's been my favorite. I've played it the longest and I just want to continue playing."
After she decided to continue her basketball career, Verhaeghe had to choose a school to play for. That decision was fairly simple she said Tuesday after she signed a letter of intent to play for Southwestern College in Winfield.
"It's really exciting," Verhaeghe said. "I've been waiting for this for a while. I just actually had to make the decision.
"They are really friendly and have a good coaching staff," Verhaeghe said of the Southwestern coaches. "It just felt like home and it has a nice atmosphere. The people are really nice, too."
Dave Denly, Southwestern women's basketball coach was excited to sign Verhaeghe Tuesday afternoon.
"We are very excited to get a young lady with the qualities and character of her," Denly said. "She will fit in great with our school and program. She is a tremendous student athlete. In the classroom, she is just awesome.
"Basketball wise, she fits in with what we do really well," he said. "She is a great outside shooter and a great athlete. What I like, more than probably any of it, is her basketball intellect. She really understands the game. She is a student of the game and you can tell that by watching her."
Denly wasn't the only coach happy for Verhaeghe Tuesday. BHS girls' coach Bob Martin was thrilled to see one of his players continue their career.
"This is really exciting," Martin said. "I think she made a really good choice. It's a good fit for her. I am excited that she's going to go on and play, because she has been a special player for us. I am happy for her."
Denly said his team finished 18-12 last season and will return eight of its 11 players that lettered, including seven seniors. He wanted to add some size this offseason, along with some guard depth.
Martin believes Verhaeghe will make an impact on the team immediately, because of her three-point shooting ability. She hit 73 long-range shots this season as she shot 41 percent from behind the arc.
"She is such a great shooter and everybody needs great shooters," Martin said. "I think she will make an immediate contribution. I think they are going to find out she has an all-around game and she will do well there."
Southwestern began recruiting Verhaeghe last year and she visited the school last summer. The coaches attended her final home game at BHS in the first round of the 4A substate.
"We saw her over the summer," Denly said. "It's a little harder for us to watch the high school games up here, because it's a little further away. She came down over the summer and visited Southwestern and we talked. We got to see her play and she was on campus a couple of times. We are just excited about all of the things she brings."
Verhaeghe's parents and younger sister, Libby, attended her signing Tuesday. Her father, Mel Verhaeghe, said he was proud of what his daughter has accomplished and looks forward to seeing her play for Southwestern.
"We are very proud," Verhaeghe said. "She has done really well. She chose a very nice school. It will be nice to watch her play basketball still, but we won't see as many games as we used to."