AUGUSTA – In sixth grade, Katie Stanton made a promise to her grandmother that she would continue playing basketball in college.
On Wednesday, the Augusta senior took the next step in keeping that promise by signing to play at Brescia University.
“I made a promise to my grandma in sixth grade that I would continue my ball career. When he [Brescia coach Mike Gray] offered, I thought about it for a couple months and I made my decision because of my grandma and my little cousin Gracie,” said Stanton.
That commitment to family is important to the 5-foot-6 forward. Her cousin passed away the day before her signing, and her father passed away when she was 11 years old. He passed away on March 8, so the timing of the signing was special to her.
“My family is the best family that I could possibly get because they’ve been there through everything for me,” said Stanton. “My dad passed away when I was 11 years old and that was really tough on me, but I continued to go try to be my best, try to do my best.”
Stanton added another family her freshman year of high school, when she transferred to Augusta and joined the basketball team coached by Rebecca Arnold. She played in 17 games that season for the Lady Panthers, who made it to the 10th Region Tournament with a 38-37 win over Bracken County.
Terry Bray took over the team the next year and Stanton saw more playing time, appearing in 26 of the team’s 28 games and averaging 5.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
As a junior, she had another coaching change. Due to health reasons, Bray was forced to take a step back and Robin Kelsch took charge of the team.
The team went 9-18 as Stanton averaged 6.9 points and contributed in other areas, including leadership, for a team that had 12 players, 10 of which were sophomores or younger.
“On any given night she played every position on the floor. If we needed a bucket, I went to Katie. If I needed a big free throw, I went to Katie. If a team was pressing, we wanted Katie to throw the ball inbounds. We spent a lot of time trying to get the ball to Katie. That’s just the tangibles she brought on the court,” said Kelsch. “Off the court she was our leader, our only senior. Somebody like that could complain about having to play with all freshmen, sophomores the last couple years and having to bring them along, but she’s adopted them as sisters and family and meant as much off the floor to them as she has on.”
The Lady Panthers won nine games again this winter behind Stanton’s 12 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. She led the 39th District in scoring average as the postseason rolled around and, once again, was expected to be a leader as the only senior on a team that was still very young.
“It’s just great to have that kind of person, that kind of extension on the floor, especially since the point guard is my daughter and that relationship sometimes – Katie needed to be that leader. Even though she wasn’t the point guard primarily, Katie was that leader, that extension, that coach on the floor. I can’t say enough about her,” said Kelsch. “We’re blessed that she came to Augusta and I got to know her and spend time with her and watch her grow, not only as a basketball player, but she’s matured so much as a young lady and we’re very proud of this chance for her.”
Her hard work caught the attention of Mike Gray, who just wrapped up his second season as Brescia’s coach.
“That’s a long story how I got in contact with her, but the thing about it is I heard how hard a worker she is. That’s the type of kids I want to try to build a program with at Brescia,” said Gray. “We brought in a lot of freshmen this year. I wanted to make sure I had hard working kids that have high academics and is going to get her degree, which is more important and you get to play the game of basketball with it.”
The Lady Bearcats went just 5-24 last year and improved to 12-19 this season. Gray says he doesn’t quite know what Stanton’s role will be on the team yet, but knows she has a solid mid-range jumper and is a hard worker that’ll communicate well with the team – something that made her a pleasure for Kelsch to coach throughout her high school career and something he believes will benefit her in college.
“Katie is very fun to be around and brought a lot of lightheartedness to the team when we needed that,” said Kelsch, “but when it was time to get serious and play, Katie gave you that effort all out.”