Playground Notes: Kelly is huge step in program’s return

Danny Schoenbaechler

Sometimes things work out.

And for Western’s women’s basketball program, Thursday was one of those days.

Mary Taylor Cowles has a plethora of talented guards on her roster, but what she needed was a dominant post player. And there just happened to be an All-American living just up the road in Louisville.

The Lady Topper community has spent the past year talking about Crystal Kelly, the senior center from Sacred Heart Academy.

And at Outback Steakhouse in Louisville on Wednesday night, Kelly informed her parents of her final decision.

The word that slipped past her lips: Western.

Cowles didn’t know it yet, but she was about to have an unforgettable Thursday morning.

The next morning Kelly came to Bowling Green to tell the Western coach of her decision.

Cowles reacted the way everyone would expect her to – she grabbed Kelly in a gleeful embrace.

That hug proved to Kelly that she had made the correct decision.

Later that day she formally signed her national letter of intent with Western.

Kelly’s signing proves Lady Topper basketball is still the top women’s basketball program in the state.

In fact it may now be the top program at Western.

They have competed in a national championship game, won conference championships and signed multiple high school All-Americans.

While Kelly isn’t Sheryl Swoopes, she could be what Western needs to return to the NCAA top 25.

She is a post player who can score, rebound and pass. She will be an immediate impact player, and she will have the luxury of not needing to carry the team.

Sophomore Tiffany Porter-Talbert, junior Camryn Whitaker and junior Leslie Logsdon formed what was probably the best backcourt in the Sun Belt Conference last season.

The guards will not be an issue with Porter-Talbert, 17.1 points a game, and Logsdon, 15 points a game, each being early favorites to win the SBC Player of the Year award next season.

The front court won’t have anywhere near the experience, but it could also be one of the better units in the conference.

Freshman Carla Bartee started all season, averaging 11.8 points a game. She has the competitive fire needed to become an all-conference performer next year.

Bartee and Kelly will be joined by freshman Kacie Pope who will be playing her first season for Western after missing last year while recovering from brain surgery.

Bartee and Pope should provide enough distraction from opposing teams to allow Kelly to put up big numbers immediately.

Next year’s Lady Topper team was good enough to win the Sun Belt without Kelly, now they are ready to be an NCAA regular.

In her first two years on the job, Cowles has shown that she is capable of bringing her beloved Lady Toppers back into the national spotlight. And it isn’t just because of Kelly.

Danny Schoenbaechler is the Herald sports columnist and sports editor. Reach him at [email protected]