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By GOOSE LINDSAY
The game of basketball has always been easy for Oliver Springs’ Kayla Christopher.
However, deciding where to play college hoops has been anything but easy for the Lady ’Cat star.
Entering her senior season, Christopher is ranked among the top players in the state — if not the nation — and that talent has a number of Division I schools courting for her services.
Christopher has received countless letters and more and more phone calls are now coming in as she tries to make the best decision for her future both on and off the court.
“It was real exciting at first,” Christopher said. “I remember the first letter I ever got was from Memphis before my freshman year, then the next letter I got was from Tennessee. I couldn’t believe it.”
Since then she has received letters from pretty much every school around. She even received a birthday card signed by University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma and his staff.
Now coaches are allowed to call her to sell their program. Although Christo-pher is happy about the attention, she also admits that the process is a tough one, especially when it’s time to say no to a school.
“Some coaches are real interested in what you’re doing, and others talk more about their college,” she said. “But there comes a point when you’re not interested, and you have to tell that you don’t want to go there. That’s been the hardest part for me; putting my foot down and saying no.”
“It’s hard to watch her struggle with this decision, but this is a huge decision — and a lot of kids make the wrong decision,” said Kayla’s mother Michelle Christopher, who also doubles as her basketball coach on the Lady ’Cats’ court.
“We just want her to put it in the Lord’s hands and be a better soldier for Him. We want her to be where He wants her to be and for her to be happy.”
Christopher’s decision will not be easy. A number of factors are weighing on her mind.
Like most players, Christopher wants to play for a top-notch program, and she is being recruited by several teams in power conferences, such as the SEC and the Big East.
“It would be great to play for one of those teams you get to watch on TV a lot,” Christopher said.
She added that her parents’ input and playing time — and her education — will play a major role in her decision.
“My education means a lot to me because basketball’s eventually going to come to an end,” she said. “I’m wanting to be a pharmacist, and I’m going to major in biology so a school’s pharmacy program will be important.
“Probably the biggest factor to me right now is playing time. I want to play right away. I’ve never had to sit the bench, and I don’t want to start now.
“It’s also going to be really important to see what my mom and dad think about colleges. They’ve told me they want me to do what I want, but deep down I think they want me to stay close to home.”
“Of course we want to watch her play as much as we can,” coach Christopher added. “But the biggest thing is that she goes to where she needs to be. I think one thing that is going to help her is that we’ve done a lot of traveling while playing basketball, and I think that’s helped her learn what’s it’s like to be away from home.”
One thing that neither Kayla nor her mother are concerned with is whether she is ready for the jump from Class A basketball to potentially playing for a Top-25-type team.
“Oliver Springs may be a small school, but we’re a winning program and we play the best competition around,” Christopher said. “That’s why we’ve been to the state tournament the last three years and five of the past seven. Plus, my AAU team is at the top; when I play with them, I play against the top competition.”
“I think the best thing about Kayla is her desire and work ethic along with her comptiveness,” Michelle Christopher added.
“When you put those things together with natural ability then you can go a long way. She knows how to play.
“It just makes me proud knowing she has the ability to catch people’s attention when she’s playing against top teams.”
Christopher has not yet taken official visits to any school. That will have to wait till the start of her senior season, but she has made unofficial visits to MTSU, Kentucky and Louisville.
All three schools have shown a lot of interest in Christopher, and she knows it’s important to make the most of her visits, official and unofficial.
“The biggest thing for me when making a visit is getting a feel for the campus and finding out if that’s a place that you want to live,” she said. “So far, they’ve all been really nice, and the best part has been their basketball facilities. Plus, Kentucky has a really good pharmacy school.”
So when will Kayla make her decision?
That she doesn’t know, but she admits that she would like to have it out of the way by November.
“I’d like to make it before the start of our season so I don’t have to worry about it anymore, but I don’t want to rush things,” she said. “I want to know my decision is the right one.”
“I don’t want her to rush this at all,” coach Christopher added.
“I want her to have the peace of mind that she’s made the right decision. I’m not worried about it affecting her game, because she won’t let that type of stuff bother her on the court.
“She just wants to win on the court.”