VERSAILLES — Kami McEldowney proved she’s a winner throughout her high school career, and now the Versailles senior will try to help turn Urbana University women’s basketball team into a winning program.
McEldowney, the daughter of Roger and Holly McEldowney, committed to Urbana on Friday morning at Versailles High School.
“It’s a dream come true,” McEldowney said. “I know some of the seniors, I talked to them a little bit there, and they just said the program is amazing, and I just feel a connection between us. And I know some of the incoming freshmen, and that’s really exciting to see that maybe we can change the program.”
The Versailles senior liked Urbana because of its proximity to home, and she saw a good fit both academically and athletically.
“My first big, important thing for choosing a college was probably being close to home so I could like come home, watch (my sister) Caitlin finish up her season here and then so my parents and family could come up and watch me,” McEldowney said. “The coach there is changing the whole program around, and the campus is newly updated, and I think it’s just a good environment for me.”
McEldowney was a four-year starter for Versailles and helped guide the Tigers to the 2015 Ohio High School Athletic Association Division III state championship. She led Versailles to state runner-up finishes in 2017 and 2018.
“She’s been a great leader for us ever since a freshman,” Versailles girls basketball coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “She started starting halfway through the year. She’s never looked back. She’s a great hustler out there. She gets our offense ignited with her 3-point shot. She can take it to the hole as well. She’s just a really fun player to watch, and I’m excited to see her play at the next level.”
As a senior, McEldowney was named the Midwest Athletic Conference girls basketball player of the year by the conference and was named second team all-Ohio by the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association.
The Tiger guard averaged 13.1 points per game, 2.1 rebounds per game and 4.3 assists per game during her senior season. She set school records with seven made 3-pointers in a game and 69 made 3-pointers in a season.
“Her greatest strength is her shooting ability from the outside skill-wise,” Stonebraker said. “And she can handle the ball really well, too, for a two guard. But what I really like about her is her mental toughness. She’s such a tough kid.”
Along with her three state final appearances in girls basketball, McEldowney helped lead the Versailles volleyball team to the state final four twice. During her senior season the Tigers won the Division III state championship.
“She’s gonna take those girls and put them on her back say, ‘Let’s go. Let’s win this game.’ She is a game player, and in tight situations you want her on the court,” Stonebraker said.
While McEldowney was part of many winning teams in high school, she’ll join a rebuilding program in college. Urbana’s last winning season was the 2013-14 season when the Blue Knights finished 18-10. The following year they went 1-28.
Urbana is showing signs of progress, though. During her first season as the head coach Andrea McCloskey led Urbana to a 12-15 record in 2017-18, which was an improvement from the Knights’ 6-20 record the previous season.
“It is a good fit for her,” Stonebraker said of McEldowney choosing Urbana. “It’s close to home, which I know she’s comfortable with, and they have an up-and-rising program. I’m excited for her to be part of a building program.”
McEldowney hopes to contribute to Urbana’s turnaround by working to earn playing time during her freshman season for the team, which competes in the NCAA Division II Mountain East Conference with the University of Charleston, Concord University, Fairmont State University, Glenville State College, Notre Dame College, Shepherd University, the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, West Liberty University, West Virginia State University, West Virginia Wesleyan College and Wheeling Jesuit University.
“(McCloskey) said if I do work hard and earn my spot, I can definitely see a lot of minutes for freshman year,” McEldowney said. “Just to work hard and have fun, to really just enjoy it. I mean I’ve only got four more years left.”
McEldowney will study early childhood education at Urbana.
“And I’m probably going to go into coaching with that, too, hopefully,” she said, “trying to give back.”