GIRLS’ BASKETBALL: Wingler commits to EKU

Meade County senior Kendall Wingler was down to five schools on where she would continue her athletic and academic careers in college.

“The process is definitely an experience I never thought I would be able to have,” she said. “In the beginning, it was very slow. I talked to more colleges as I got more into AAU and playing in all these tournaments. More colleges were calling and it’s really stressful when you are making that final decision. It’s definitely not something everybody has the opportunity to have.

“I was told to enjoy this because ‘this was the most anyone will want one person at one time.’ It was enjoyable and something I’ll never forget. There are relationships I’ll have forever. Being able to know all those coaches and their programs is an opportunity you cannot replace.”

Wingler chose Eastern Kentucky University over Murray State, North Alabama, BYU and Evansville.

“It was definitely the coaching staff,” Wingler said. “Coach Sam (Samantha Williams) being the head coach and coming from U of L, I got to know her and the rest of the coaching staff really well. I’m definitely looking past college ball. My goal is to play overseas and Coach Sam and the coaching staff will give me that opportunity with the connections they have.

“I know going in I definitely want to be a part of a program that I can help change. They really haven’t had the best record of late (22-66 the last three years and one winning season in the last five). I definitely believe in Coach Sam and the players she’s bringing in to boost EKU’s record and earn the program more respect. An OVC championship is definitely my goal going into this. I want to get bigger, faster and stronger and I know Coach Sam and the coaching staff will help me get to that point.”

Wingler, who has a school-record 2,197 points, said getting the decision finalized before the beginning of her senior season was important.

“It was a goal because I wanted to be able to enjoy my senior season,” she said. “Not that I wouldn’t anyway, but I didn’t want that stress upon me. It was definitely a goal to enjoy the rest of my senior year and get ready for high school basketball and go out on a good note.”

Wingler, who scored 754 points a year ago — 26 per game — said the proximity of choosing EKU really wasn’t a big factor.

“To me, it didn’t matter,” she said. “There were different aspects and questions I had when I looked into each school. EKU had more of what I wanted in a school. I talked to a lot of people when I traveled everywhere to those schools. I knew I had to like where I was going and like the college life, too. You are going to be around a lot of people and you have to like the town you’re in and the city you’ll represent.

“My parents wanted me to choose a school that was best for me because in the end it was my decision. No one was going to influence me. BYU is the WCC champs and it’s great to win rings. But I wanted to be a part of a program that I could help bring up and be able to accomplish something and be able to say that I contributed to it. It’s not about how much playing time I’ll get because you have to work for a position no matter where you go.

“How do you fit into that program? How many people do they actually have on the team? How many players were offered for your position? You have to find out all of those things during the recruiting process. It’s different how colleges recruit you. Having that relationship with the coaches is something I did not really have any another schools.”

Wingler, who said she will be a two or three at EKU, knows the work never stops.

“I’ve definitely been in the gym a lot,” she said. “I watch a lot of videos and that definitely helped me with asking a lot of questions to the colleges when I went on recruiting visits. I asked what I needed to work on and what are any weaknesses that they see in my game. I took notes and that’s what I worked on the last couple of summers. I’ve worked on different things and being able to get into the gym a lot has been great. I’m constantly in the gym no matter if I’m home or at high school.

“I’ve seen my game and my demeanor change a lot. My mind sees the court and sees the game a little differently. Playing AAU has definitely been great for my composure in tough situations and tough games. Being on an AAU team — the Kentucky Royals — that plays tough competition has been great. Every game we pretty much play top teams in the nation. This summer was definitely tough for us with all the injuries we had. I saw my game improve and I saw the stuff I still need to improve on.”

Wingler, who said she is looking into studying sports medicine or sports management at EKU, knows the importance of the high school season and is looking forward to it.

“High school is way different than AAU in the different pace in which it’s played,” she said. “I’m under pressure all the time playing high school, but honestly being under pressure helps you see the player you actually are. It helps you understand if you can handle the pressure. The more pressure you’re under, you’re able to take it in and adjust to it.

“I’m looking forward to my senior year. I didn’t get to see much of my high school teammates during the summer. I’m excited to get back in the gym with them for this year and end my high school career with them on a great note.”

Mike Mathison can be reached at 270-505-1758 or mmathison@thenewsenterprise.com.

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