The Boy

kelsey-the-boy

By Kelsey Bone

The first 10 years of my life were like a fairy tale.  I was an only child and enjoyed the love and adoration of my family: I literally had their undivided attention.  I never thought about sharing my room, my toys, or fighting over which cartoon I would watch.  I just basked in the glory of being the center of attention, the star attraction of my own little world, and life was good!

On September 1, 2001 my world, as I knew it, was turned completely upside down. Tragedy struck.  My mother gave birth to a baby boy who would become known as my little brother.  Who me? A baby? A baby brother? Who has kids 10 years apart? Like really, mom?  Like WHY?  The anger and confusion that surrounded me, at the tender age of 10, was indescribable.  We didn’t need another child in this family, we were fine.

On Fridays, my mom would pick me up from school and we would shop and eat and enjoy each other. That was OUR day!  Now we had to stop at the daycare. We had to pick up diapers and milk. Suddenly, there was this little human being sitting in the back seat with me–in a car seat of all things– and he belonged to us!  I wasn’t sure what all of this meant, but I decided I wasn’t participating in any of this foolishness.  I was the perfect child.  My mom loved me. Now, this little person demanded way too much of her time and attention.  I thought he would go away, but they kept bringing him back home so this little baby named Donovan Kennedy Williams became a part of my reality.  I stopped peeping at him or giving him my infamous side eye and actually picked him up one day.  In that moment,  I fell in love with my brother.

kelsey-2As I approach my 25th birthday, I realize that I have been blessed with the best brother ever!  He has watched my entire career unfold over the past 15 years the good, bad and ugly, the tears, the failures, and all of the successes.  He was at the gym in his car seat when I was running and doing Miken drills.  He traveled and watched every game that I have played from AAU to USA basketball to the WNBA.  One of my fondest memories was an AAU game in California when he was supposed to just be passing out water during a timeout.  Instead, he came into the huddle and yelled at me to REBOUND! He was five!

I was selected as the number 5 draft pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft.  It was my night to shine. However, it was my brother who Kevin Nghandi announced on national television was the best dressed person in the building.  He was the star!  When I announced my college selection, live on television from the McDonald’s All American game, he was front and center smiling and again stealing the show.

When I’ve play my worst games, he has said, “Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Just get back in the gym!”  One of the worst parts of playing overseas is that I have had to watch him grow up from a distance.  Every time I see him, he has grown a few inches taller, his feet are larger, and his voice is noticeably deeper.  He is now a 10th grader playing on varsity and I sit waiting for reports after each of his games.  My mom always begins by saying they won or lost and then I ask, “How did he do?”

Playing in the Chinese League will allow me to come home early enough to watch him play and I am super excited to do that.  He has watched me and looked up to me for quite some time, but what he doesn’t know is that I have been watching him.  He is smart, outspoken and charismatic.  I am in awe of his ability to walk into a room and own it.  He grew up in the gym watching me and now I get the great pleasure to watch him, to cheer for him, and … to yell at him to REBOUND!

That little human being who invaded my territory 15 years ago, whom I affectionately call “The Boy,” is why I play this game.  I want to share with him all the things that I have learned and help him on his journey.  For him, the BEST is yet to come!

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Chasing My Two Dreams

jennings-header3By Chelsea Jennings

As a kid, I was always told to dream big and that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to.

In high school, I held myself to a high standard on and off the court. I never wanted to be considered a dumb athlete. That is what ultimately pushed me throughout high school, where I would graduate cum laude in my 2012 class at North Crowley High School, Fort Worth, Texas.  Coming to Texas A&M, I knew I wanted to take full advantage of all the opportunities of being a student-athlete. I challenged myself to pursue one of the hardest degrees at Texas A&M. I chose Architecture because I have a passion for drawing and design. I remember going into an academic meeting with people questioning my decision and my ability to balance my architectural degree and basketball. My freshmen year I was enrolled into independent studies, which is an undeclared degree plan. I had to prove to the Architecture Department that I could maintain a standard GPA of  3.2 as a student-athlete. The department was hesitant about letting a student-athlete into their program because they knew how demanding this degree could be. As a freshman student-athlete, this was a bit of a challenge but I accomplished it. This undertaking set me back an entire year, but I was determined to show everyone that I could do it.

When I was finally enrolled in Architecture my sophomore season, it was a rude awakening for me. Attempting to balance basketball, architecture, and my personal life almost seemed impossible at the time. During preseason I would literally stay up until 4 in the morning, working on projects and then have to wake up at 5:30am for 6am workouts. I was not getting much sleep and was completely exhausted. This lead to poor performances and not being able to produce how I wanted on the court. I became very overwhelmed and stressed out. At this point in my life, I had never faced anything of this level of difficulty. I began to doubt my decision; I was struggling on the court and off the court. I wasn’t producing on the court and it lingered into my academic success as well. Many times after games where I played not a single second, I would go home and cry wondering why I choose this route. Coming out of high school, I was ranked among the top 50 in the country and highly recruited yet now I was not playing. I truly felt like it was impossible to be the best basketball player I wanted to be while trying to be the best student I could be. I felt like a complete failure and I didn’t know what to do about it. It seemed the best decision might be to transfer and get a fresh start at a new college. I have never been a quitter but it seemed like that was the most logical situation for me at the time. As a Christian believer, I prayed about my situation and I knew he would deliver an answer.  It wasn’t till right before my junior season started that I decided I wanted to continue my career here at Texas A&M. I knew I had to finish what I started.

image3Going into to my junior year I felt like a new person. I was confident and I was stronger. It was amazing seeing how that confidence carried over  to the court and into the classroom. It seemed like everything started turning around for the better. I was producing more on the court and I was enjoying my academic successes. Of course, I had my struggles throughout the course of  the year but I was more equipped to handle these situations. I started to believe in myself again with the help of God, family, teammates, and coaches. I truly and honestly would not have been successful, were it not for them. My junior year was the turning point of my career here at Texas A&M.

cj-001My senior season all the pieces started coming together for me. I realized I had been making excuses my past three years here. I was so worried about all the wrong things. I was so eager to prove that I was better than the person next to me. I lost focus on what I was originally trying to accomplish. I learned that I needed to compete with myself, by challenging myself to get better each day — in school, basketball, or most importantly, getting more in tune with God. My ultimate goal was not just to be the best basketball player I could be but to be the best person I could be. I began to set goals for myself to reach, instead of complaining about my past failures. I attacked my senior year with a Godly purpose. My senior season resulted in me getting 6th women of the year in the SEC. I will be graduating in December  — the first female African American athlete to graduate with a degree in the college of Architecture at Texas A&M University. I have also started a brand called LWP. Which means Live With Purpose. This brand is a true testimony of my college career here at Texas A&M. I was defeated before I even got started because I did not understand my purpose due to continuous failures. Living a life with no purpose is like being in a maze with no end. The moment I started living life with a purpose was when my life and career began to change.

I realized through my journey here at Texas A&M that direction is far more important than speed. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. At the time I didn’t realize why I went through all of these obstacles, but now I believe it was meant to be a testimony to others. To show if you are patient, stay the course, and have faith, you can accomplish anything and everything that people thought you could never do.  This new mindset has shaped and helped me become the person I am today.