With just a very few days to go until she begins her senior basketball senior, Miami Trace High School’s Shaylee McDonald has announced her college plans.
Miami Trace held a ceremony Friday in which McDonald signed a letter of intent to attend Kentucky Wesleyan University, located in Owensboro, Kentucky.
Teammates surrounded her, along with family members and coaches, for the momentous occasion.
McDonald, a four-year varsity player for the Lady Panthers, goes into the 2019-20 season needing less than 100 points to reach 1,000 for her career.
“As a player, Shay’s absolutely unbelievable,” Miami Trace head coach Ben Ackley said. “She’s right at the top of the list as far as an all-time great at Miami Trace, as far as I’m concerned.
“When you talk about Jenna Cobb and Tanner Bryant and Sam Leach, Shay’s right there,” Ackley said. “She can do anything. She’s a great ball defender; she can play the point, she can play off the ball.
“Last year she averaged just over 19 points a game as a junior,” Ackley said. “She’s closing in on 1,000 points. She’s sacrificed quite a bit. She played with two 1,000-point scorers her first two years with Tanner Bryant and Victoria Fliehman.
“Shay was a vital part of our Final Four run (during the 2016-17 season),” Ackley said. “She was a freshman. She was our sixth man that year. A lot of kids would have been upset because she didn’t start that whole year. She played starter minutes, but she didn’t start.
“Shay has just been an incredible kid to coach,” Ackley said. “She competes at such a high level. She goes as hard in practice every day as anyone I’ve ever coached. Watching Shaylee’s growth, not just as a basketball player, but as a person, watching her grow up in the last four years has been one of the biggest pleasures I’ve ever had as a coach. She’s come such a long way.
“She didn’t always feel comfortable leading, vocally, but now she does,” Ackley said. “She leads by example. She’s a great teammate to the younger kids. She helps with our youth. Everything you want your best player to do, Shaylee does. She’s kind of taken the lead since Tanner graduated. She’s taken this program over and she’s been quite a leader for the last two years.
“I think she’ll play right away at Kentucky Wesleyan,” Ackley said. “I think that’s a great fit for here. They are Division II, NCAA.”
Kentucky Wesleyan is a member of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference, along with such schools as Cedarville University, the University of Findlay, Tiffin University and Ohio Dominican.
“They play a wide-open style,” Ackley said. “They get up and down and shoot a lot of 3’s, which I think plays right into Shaylee’s skill-set. I think it will be a great fit for her, both getting a great education and having a great basketball career.”
You might say it was love at first sight for McDonald when she set foot on the Kentucky Wesleyan campus.
“Kentucky Wesleyan was my first visit,” McDonald said. “After I left, I just felt like it was a good fit for me. So I committed like two days later.
“A bunch of colleges reached out, but Kentucky Wesleyan kept on me,” McDonald said. “I answered them and we scheduled a visit. I did some research on them. It’s a smaller campus, which I like. The coaches were amazing. They were the most genuine people I’ve met. The girls made it feel like home. It’s a good fit.”
McDonald said that she is hoping to go into physical therapy as a course of study.
What about favorite subjects in high school?
“Probably English and math,” McDonald said. “Math was challenging for me, but I enjoyed it.”
As for a favorite teacher?
“My art teacher, for sure, Miss (Roberta) Evans,” McDonald said.
The majority of kids who play a team sport in high school never reach the State tournament level.
For McDonald, that happened in her first year on the team.
“My favorite memory would definitely be when we went to the Final Four,” McDonald said. “And the days leading up to it. Just the community, how they came together. We were getting food from different places. When we made our trip to the Final Four, we had people lined up…it was just a crazy experience.”
What about preparing for the game at the college level?
“I’m going to have to definitely work a lot this summer,” McDonald said. “They are a team that gets up and down. They just the other night scored 110 points in their game. Threes are a huge thing for them. I’ll have to put a bunch of work in this summer to get to where I need to be.
“I definitely want to thank my parents,” McDonald said. “They took me to the YMCA and put me in basketball (when she was three years old, her mother said). I had a love for it. In second grade, they moved me up. Mark Bryant moved me up to the fifth grade travel team. From there I’ve just taken off with it, really.
“I want to thank my coaches, my AAU coach, and Ben, most of all, for pushing me more than any other coach has,” McDonald said.