Jan. 29, 2009

By Amy Farnum Novin

Charlie Simonds knew his daughter Kelsey was a pretty good basketball player at a very young age, but it took few years before even he realized how much potential she had.

Kelsey, a redshirt junior on the Stonehill College women’s basketball squad, inherited her basketball instincts from her father, a member of the school’s Hall of Fame, who scored 1,011 points during his career.

The 6-3 junior forward was not only graced with her father’s good basketball genes, but Charlie also coached her for several years in AAU, sharing his knowledge of the game along the way.

“He gave me a really good sense of what the game is about, and I think because of that I have good court sense and awareness on the floor,” said Kelsey.  “I think I’m a smarter player because of him.”

As she developed, it became obvious that Kelsey would have shot to play college basketball, but she never realized the perfect fit of a school was sitting right in her back yard. 

Growing up in Middleboro, Mass., about 20 miles from the Stonehill College campus, Kelsey was all too familiar with the school located in Easton, Mass.  Not only had her father attended the school, but her AAU team held practices on campus over the years.

Kelsey was recruited by several schools – Division I and II programs – but after going through the process, she recognized that Stonehill was the best place for her.

“I never thought of going to Stonehill,” said Kelsey.  “It was always just a school nearby.  In high school, I realized it was the perfect place, and I thought it was awesome that my dad went there.  We even wear the same number (No. 22).  I feel comfortable there, and it’s a great tradition.”

Charlie allowed Kelsey to make her own decision on a college, but did point out that she had to really like the school in case her basketball career ended abruptly.

“I think (going to Stonehill) was always in the back of his mind, but he wanted me to make my own choice and just stood back and watched,” said Kelsey.  “I think that was so important and I respect him a lot for that because he didn’t push any school either way – it was my decision.  When I told him it was Stonehill, I know he was excited.”

Kelsey made an immediate impact for the Skyhawks, earning Northeast-10 Freshman of the Year during her rookie season in 2005-06, while enjoying a large support system with her parents and five siblings frequently attending games. 

“She has a phenomenal ability to score and stepped right into a role that we really needed at the time when she started as a freshman,” said head coach Trisha Brown.  “We had a pretty talented team, but not a lot of height in the post at that time.  Her skill level was really advanced for a freshman.”

At the end of the year, however, Kelsey broke her foot and then broke it again before what should have been her sophomore season.  Charlie still never missed a game despite Kelsey’s absence on the court, and the support of her family nearby helped get her through the tough year. 

Kelsey resumed playing in 2007-08, garnering first-team All-Northeast-10 honors as she scored in double figures in all but two games.  She has picked up right where she left off last year, leading the team with 15.8 points per game.  A few weeks ago against Dominican, Kelsey eclipsed the 1,000-point milestone, and then surpassed her father’s career total of 1,011 points – something she and her dad joke about.

“I don’t think Kelsey has felt any pressure to live up to her dad’s standards as a Hall of Fame player,” said Brown.  “She’s her own kid, and is just so humble.  It’s not about awards – she’s so unselfish and is such a team player.”

After Stonehill suffered a minor setback with two losses in seven days two weeks ago, the Brown has had the team focus on becoming a better defensive team and the result has been two games of holding opponents to 55 points or under, and a quadruple-overtime 87-82 victory over Bentley on Jan. 28.

“We have the ability to score points and we have a lot of talented scorers, and certainly Kelsey in the middle opens so much up for us scoring-wise,” said Brown.  “We just need to continue to build our defensive strengths.”

Kelsey scored 30 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and swatted a career-high seven blocked shots in the Skyhawks third straight NE-10 win versus Bentley.  Simonds has led the team in rebounds in each of the last three games, and paces the team with 9.2 per game.

Stonehill will enjoy the weekend off following the epic battle against Bentley, and return to the court on Feb. 4 at Franklin Pierce and there’s a pretty good chance Charlie Simonds will be watching.