By Rob Kiser
From the time she stepped on the floor as a freshman for Versailles — wearing the orange-and-black, the smile never left point guard Kami McEldowney’s face.
And now, there will be a lot of opponents smiling realizing they will never have to face the 5-foot-7 game-changer again.
McEldowney, a VHS senior, made it official Friday morning in the Versailles High School gym, signing her letter of intent to play basketball for Urbana University.
And it should come as no surprise, the decision for McEldowney was an easy one — with her family in mind.
“From the time this (recruiting) started, my number one focus was finding a place close to home,” McEldowney, the daughter of Roger and Holly McEldowney, said. “I wanted my parents to be able to come and see me play — and I want to be able to come back and watch (sister) Caitlin finish her athletic career here.”
And McEldowney had a lot to smile about during her four years at Versailles.
The individual numbers are impressive enough.
Starting all four years in basketball — she scored 1,323 points, career average of 11.4.
Her career shooting percentage was 42.4 percent from the floor — making 427 of 1007 shots.
Her 3-point shooting percentage was even better.
McEldowney hit 201 of 463 shots from behind the arc, an amazing 43.4 percent. She also made 277 of 371 free throws for 74.7 percent, dished out 384 assists and grabbed 258 rebounds.
But, what sets McEldowney apart is what the teams she played on were able to accomplish in her four years.
Versailles played 117 games over the last four seasons in girls basketball, winning 100.
The Tigers made three trips to the final four.
Versailles was D-III state champion in McEldowney’s freshman year and state runnerup her junior and senior years.
During her four years, Versailles played 29 postseason games, winning 26.
And it doesn’t end with basketball.
As a defensive specialist, she helped the volleyball team to a state semifinal appearance as a freshman and a D-III state championship this season as a senior, with her sister Caitlin serving the deciding points in the fifth set.
If that is not enough, McEldowney is also a standout in softball and would love to make some more history before she leaves.
“It is amazing,” McEldowney said about her accomplishments. “I really didn’t have any idea how many games we had won. We just went out and tried to have fun with it.”
As a former basketball star at Versailles and Bowling Green, her basketball coach Jacki Stonebraker has a feel for the senior class’ accomplishments.
“To win 100 games is amazing,” Stonebraker. “Not just Kami (McEldowney), but the whole team. One of the things about Kami is she makes players around her better. If you looked at her game, then you would say her outside shooting is her strength.”
But, she also has that innate ability to play her best when it matters most.
With Versailles trailing Africentric by double digits in the third quarter of the state championship game this year, she literally willed her team back into the game.
She made three 3-point shots in the third quarter and had a fourth waived off by a foul as the Tigers came all the way back to take the lead at one point.
“Kami (McEldowney) can raise her game at any time,” Stonebraker said. “She is such a clutch player. Her biggest strength is her mental toughness. She is such a tough kid.”
And McEldowney is excited abut the next step in her journey.
“I really liked the coach and the players,” McEldowney said. “They have a great new facility. The program is turning around. I know a lot of the other girls she has recruited so that is great.”
Stonebraker agreed with the choice.
“Absolutely, I think it is a great fit for Kami (McEldowney),” Stonebraker said. “I think she can go over there and have a big impact.”
And McEldowney is determined to do just that.
“That is the plan (to play right away),” McEldowney said. “The coach said if I come in and work really hard, I can do that.”
And it will be the Urbana University fans who will be smiling for the next four years.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.
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