Alex Keltner was in seventh grade when she got the good news: she was going to have the opportunity to play varsity basketball while she was still in middle school.
This alone was enough to incite joy and jubilation into a girl just coming out of elementary school, but for Alex, that excitement became multiplied because it meant that she would be playing with her 10th grade sister, Katie.
“I don’t think people know how close Katie and I are to each other,” Alex said. “We love each other unconditionally.”
The feeling was mutual for Katie.
“We’ve always played together,” Katie said. “It just came natural for us to be teammates because we seem to always know what each other’s doing.”
Katie began her high school career in the same fashion as Alex, beginning as a seventh grader (but starting to play varsity as an eighth grader). To Katie, the chance to play high school basketball in middle school was challenging but rewarding at the same time.
“I don’t really remember my first game or anything,” Katie said. “I remember that [Head Coach James Turner] just told me to get in there and handle the ball.”
Katie thinks her greatest asset to the team is her passing abilities. While she has scored well over 1,000 points for her career, it is her natural court vision that Katie takes the most pride in.
She believes this particular skill is how she can help her team the most on a nightly basis.
“I’m a team player,” Katie said. “I just really like to pass it a lot, and I feel like I’m good at it.”
Katie’s favorite part of being on the team, though, is playing with her sister. According to Katie, the two sisters just have “a certain chemistry” when they play together.
Alex has also notice this sisterly connection when the two share the court.
“The normal sibling rivalry doesn’t exist between us,” Alex said. “We played together at home and in pickup games for years…When you play for this long and as much as Katie and I have, you learn to know what to expect from each other. It’s like we can read each other’s next move. We never want to let each other down.”
That connection goes beyond the basketball court, however. Alex describes her sister as “fun loving” and considers Katie to be a role model to both herself and the other players on the team.
“Katie motivates and encourages others to do better on and off the basketball court,” Alex said. “There have been times when I was discouraged or lacked confidence, (but) Katie always tells me that when I do my best, I can accomplish anything and to never let anything hold me back.”
This time next year, Katie will be playing basketball for the Lindsey Wilson College Blue Raiders and possibly majoring in occupational therapy, although she decided just yet.
She chose LWC because she “didn’t want to leave home.”
Without Katie suiting up for the Indians next year, Turner knows the team will struggle replacing her all-around game, noting that she can “do just about everything on the basketball court.”
“It’s kind of like we’re replacing more than one player because she’s so versatile,” Turner said. “She passes well, shoots well, handles the ball well. You can put her anywhere on the floor, and she’ll find a way to contribute. That’s a rare quality to have.”
Katie’s graduation and subsequent departure from the team involves two narratives from Alex’s perspective. One part of that narrative is reflecting on the time that the two have spent playing together for Adair County High School.
“I have really enjoyed having these three years together,” Alex said. “I know she will be moving on to better accomplishments, and I will support her in every way I can. Although I will miss her greatly, I know she has a bright future ahead.”
The other part is that, once again, she will be following in her sister’s footsteps, a task she doesn’t take lightly.
“I hope I can step up and fill her shoes when she’s gone.”
By John Overby