2017 WCHS graduate to play at KWC in fall
When the 2017-18 basketball season began, Kaylee Duncan was in an unfamiliar and uncomfortable place.
Dressed in clothes more suitable for an office than a gymnasium, the 2017 Webster County High School graduate was crunching numbers instead of dribbling a basketball, grabbing water instead of rebounds.
The former Lady Trojan standout made her way to Owensboro and the women’s program at Kentucky Wesleyan College, but as a student assistant instead of a player. And while she always kept a positive outlook, it wasn’t easy not to be on the floor.
“The first game, my whole family came and sat right behind the bench,” Duncan said. “I turned around and told my Dad, ‘I want to play so bad.’ He told me to keep working.”
And that she did, all season. Whenever the team practiced, she did too. When they ran the offensive plays, she stood by because, she said, there was no need for her to know them. But when the coach ran the team because of mistakes in practice, Duncan lined up and pounded hardwood like everyone else.
So when the season ended March 1 in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference tournament quarterfinals, Duncan hoped all her hard work had paid off. When she attended her postseason meeting with the coaches March 4, she walked into the office with a lump in her throat.
“I knew we were probably going to discuss what I would be doing next year,” she said. “I just kept telling myself, ‘Whatever they say is all a part of God’s plan.’”
What they told her, while maybe not what she expected, made it all worth it.
“They told me in that meeting that they had not planned to give me a jersey,” Duncan said. “But they said I had earned it.”
When she was looking for a college where she could continue her basketball career, the Lady Panthers had already reached its limit for player scholarships. The coaches told her, however, there were funds for a student assistant.
“I wasn’t too hip on the offer,” Duncan admitted. “But Dad said maybe it was a good thing. It would give my body time to heal.”
The KWC freshman had suffered an injury to her leg during her senior season at Webster County, and was sidelined for a good deal of the schedule.
While she was mulling over the offer, one of her aunts told Duncan she had had a dream about Duncan playing for the Lady Panthers.
“I believed that was God telling me to go,” she said.
Duncan will have four years of eligibility left at the collegiate level, as her freshman campaign was treated as a red shirt year.
The team began its postseason workouts at 6:15 a.m. Monday, and from then until April 28, when the semester ends, she will participate in full practices.
“During our postseason meetings, they will let me know what I need to work on,” Duncan said. “I know I need to work a lot on my inside stuff.”
And it’s very likely that the former Lady Trojan will see plenty of floor time in her first season in uniform.
“There were 12 on the team this year, but one was out most of the season with illness,” she said. “The other 11 played pretty much equal minutes. There were six different starting rotations.”
Duncan said the philosophy at Kentucky Wesleyan was more focused on match-ups and putting the right personnel on the floor for the team they face, rather than a set group of starters and substitutes.
When she takes the floor, though, her familiar number 15 won’t be on her back. Instead, she will wear the number 10.
“I just thought, ‘New chapter, so new number,’” Duncan said.
While her goal is certainly to play as many minutes as she can, her focus is more team-driven.
“I just want to be the best teammate I can, no matter where I am,” she said.
Reach Morgan McKinley
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