By Alex Abate ~ DAR
POPLAR BLUFF -- Kellye Penn knows what it takes to win.
She led Portageville to its first district title in 20 years this past season and is looking to take her winning to another level. She recently signed to play basketball at Three Rivers Community College, the same place her mother, then Susan Spencer, played in 1981-82.
"I decided to go to Three Rivers because its close to home and they have a good program," Penn said. "Plus, my mom played there and there is that whole 'tradition' thing."
Penn admits that she had a bit of tunnel vision, even when she got offers from other NAIA schools.
"It was always where I wanted to go," Penn said. "It was always my first choice. As soon as I got offered, I wasn't interested in the other schools."
Penn averaged 16.1 points per game over the course of her senior season. She should be a solid force for the Lady Raiders.
"She can play inside out," Three Rivers coach Jack Childress said. "She knows the game, she can shoot. Loose balls, charges, defensive capabilities, they are all there."
She also pulled down 7.8 rebounds per contest.
"Kelly is 5-9 but plays a couple inches taller than that," Portageville coach Eric Ellerbrook said. "She has a good touch around the basket."
Penn led the Lady Bulldogs to a 25-4 season and even more impressive was a combined record of 78-29 over her career, a winning percentage of 72.8 percent over the four years. Penn's experience in the post will certainly benefit Three Rivers.
"I am strong inside and have played there all my life," Penn said. "I have worked hard to get better and am pretty strong and like to push people around."
Despite being a solid player, she needs to work on her game away from the hoop in preparation for college competition, Ellerbrook said.
"I think the biggest think Kellye needs to work on is playing away from the basket," Ellerbrook said. "In high school we had to utilize her playing in the post and getting rebounds. In college, she will have to play away from the basket more."
Penn, who scored 1,409 career points at Portageville and was part of two Bootheel Conference Tournament title teams, is excited about seeing how she fits in with the current Lady Raiders.
"You just have to get in and make new friends and learn how to play with them," Penn said. "You just have to find your role on the team."
Penn's intangibles may separate her from much of the other competition.
"She has an uncanny savvy for the game and that is only gotten through experience," Childress said. "She knows the game and knows how to play hard."
The Lady Raiders have already signed 5-9 Greenville guard Sara Woodgeard and 5-5 Twin Rivers guard Kaylee Blue, who will mix in with the returning guards. They also have 6-3 Medina Smith and 5-11 Fareedah Washington coming back in the post. Childress doesn't exactly know what role Penn will have on the squad next season.
"A lot will depend on who else we sign," Childress said. "If we don't sign a post player or two, she may have to go in and get it done. I have had some 5-8's and 5-9's that have done it real well."
Accepting any position will be simple for the determined Penn.
"Well, I am pretty driven and I like to win," she said. "Whatever position, I am going to try my best."