Moving from New York to North Carolina would be hard for most rising seniors.
But when Alyson Kielar made the transition, she did what sheâ€™s so good at doing on the basketball floorâ€”made an adjustment.
â€œI had to use some different vocabulary here in the south, but Iâ€™ve made some really great friends, so it worked out really well,â€ Kielar, who recently graduated, said.
Not only did her social life not skip a beat, but her game didnâ€™t either.
For Kielar, who moved from Phoenix, New York (near Syracuse) to Denver last summer, first-year coach Deidrea Legrand was a god-send.
Herself a former star at East Lincoln High School and Belmont Abbey, Legrand passed along tips of the trade to her new center.
â€œShe taught me a lot,â€ Kielar said. â€œShe helped me with my outside shooting and she helped me solidify my post moves, because she had so much experience having played at Belmont Abbey.â€
The six-foot center was a quick learner, averaging 15.6 points per game, 6.5 rebounds, two steals and two assists for the Mustangs.
In a year when East Lincoln had more losses than wins, Kielar was a pillar of consistencyâ€”missing double figures only twice.
â€œIt was kind of hard because we were a new team altogether,â€ Kielar said. â€œWe had a brand new team because a lot of people moved up from JV.
â€œFor us, it was more of a personal achievement by the end of the season, to see how much we improved as opposed to how many games we won.â€
While her dad David was responsible for introducing her to the game of basketball, it was Legrand who fine-tuned her game.
But donâ€™t expect Legrand to tell you that.
â€œI told her to always work hard and things will fall into place,â€ Legrand said. â€œBut I take no credit for her success, as she came to me a skilled player already.â€
With encouragement from her parents and coach, Kielar signed a national letter of intent to play at Converse College next season.
â€œAs far as the team went, I was a lot more comfortable,â€ she said. â€œThey play a fast-pace style of basketball and I really meshed well with the rest of the team.â€ Kielar was also recruited by Barton and Coker College.
The center, who may play power forward at Converse, knows the next level will be a challenge, but itâ€™s a challenge she anxiously awaits.
â€œI definitely have a lot of improvement to do,â€ she said. â€œIâ€™m still working on my outside shooting, which is something I got a lot more comfortable with this year and itâ€™s just going to be a whole new experience.â€
Itâ€™s really going to teach her a lot, working with new people who are more mature and more experienced, said Kielar.
Her former coach knows there are certain qualities the (Converse) All-Stars can expect.
â€œShe is a hard-nosed player who refuses to give upâ€ Legrand said â€œAlyson played and practiced through illness and injuries.â€
Legrand added that there were times Kielar would get knocked around, but she never complained and kept playing.
Kielar, who was a Big South 3A All-Conference selection and team MVP, is thankful her dad introduced her to the game she now loves.
â€œHeâ€™s been my coach since I was in the fourth grade,â€ she said. â€œHe coached me all the way up into high school.
â€œHe taught me everything about the game,â€ she said. â€œThe work ethic I should have, different post moves and showed me where I could go with the game.â€
Legrand believes Kielar is reaping the harvest of plenty of practice and time spent on the basketball floor.
â€œAlysonâ€™s hard work has paid off,â€ she said. â€œBeing a first-year coach, I couldnâ€™t have asked for a better player to have on my team.â€
by John Mark Brooks