On March 7, 2014, then-sophomore Kasey Chambers took the floor in the second round of the MAAC Tournament with her Monmouth women’s basketball teammates. She played 10 minutes, taking one shot in the Hawks’ season-ending 71-56 loss.
That would be the last time she played a game for Monmouth.
Four days later, Penn women’s basketball won its first Ivy League title in over a decade, stunning Princeton to clinch a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Since then, the two have been a match made in heaven. At the conclusion of the 2013-14 season, Chambers — a 5-foot-7 point guard from Belmar, N.J. — elected to transfer to Penn, bringing with her a work ethic that continues to inspire her teammates as the Quakers prepare to open the 2015-16 season on Friday.
Due to NCAA rules, the senior with two years of eligibility remaining was forced to sit out last year. She could only practice with the team and was unable to travel to road contests. However, despite the layoff from the game she loves, Chambers is ready to get back to playing competitively for the first time in 20 months.
“Sitting out for a year was definitely very challenging just because I love the sport so much,” Chambers said. “And to take that away for a year and not be able to play in any games, it’s so hard.
“But coming back this year, my teammates were so good at supporting me and making the transition easy. I’m ready.”
In two seasons with the Hawks, Chambers played in 63 games, starting nine. She scored in double digits four times throughout her sophomore season, including a game against Rider in which she notched a career-high 14 points.
But beyond her impact in games at Monmouth, it is what Chambers has done behind the scenes since arriving at Penn — especially when she was ineligible to play — that has helped her win over both her fellow teammates and coaches.
“She came to practice every day, and she worked harder than anyone,” Chambers’ backcourt mate sophomore Anna Ross said. “She couldn’t even travel. She has a great mindset, a great work ethic and she’s always going to work harder than anyone no matter the circumstances. She showed that last year, and she continues to show that this year.
“She’s been a leader from the beginning, even though she wasn’t playing.”
Heading into last season, the Quakers were fresh off that Ivy title and NCAA Tournament appearance. While a handful of important veterans, including 2013-14 Ivy League Player of the Year Alyssa Baron, had graduated, the team still returned four core seniors, including starters Kathleen Roche and Kara Bonenberger.
This time around, at least in comparison to the past two seasons, there is undeniably a dearth of senior leadership surrounding Mike McLaughlin’s program. Luckily for the team, since she joined the team, Chambers has led by example, establishing herself as a player worth emulating for her younger teammates.
“Coming in my freshman year, she was so helpful,” Ross said. “But she offered her experience to me, and that helped so much freshman year when you come in and you’re scared and intimidated. But she talked me through it and she was amazing.”
Because of Chambers’ work ethic and ability to connect with her teammates in spite of her lack of on-court action, her teammates named her a captain for the upcoming season, along with junior Sydney Stipanovich and seniors Keiera Ray and Brooklyn Juday.
“It was such an honor. I choked up,” she said. “I hope that throughout this season, I can help the team in the best way I can. That’s what they voted me into the position for.”
“She’s always in the gym trying to get better,” Ross added. “And you want to be able to learn something from your captains and learning how to get better is something I learned from Kasey.”
But Chambers’ skill set goes beyond what she does in practice and how she has impacted her teammates both on and off the court. Whereas Ross and sophomore guard Beth Brzozowski were expected to be able to score from the point guard position in 2014-15, the transfer is able to run the offense and command the floor with her speed and evenhandedness.
“I think she’s really going to give us something we haven’t had since [former guard] Megan [McCullough] left,” McLaughlin said. “She plays at a little bit of a different speed, she gets up and down the court quickly with the basketball, she plays at a high pace, she’s a fearless defender.
“She understands the pace of the game. I don’t think she gets down on herself when things go bad. She’s going to be an uplifting person for us and we’re going to rely on her heavily.”
Relying on Chambers heavily will begin on Friday, as Penn is set to take on No. 14 Duke at the Palestra. In that game, the veteran will take the court for the first time in nearly two years as the Red and Blue’s starting point guard, with Ross set to move to the two-guard position while Brzozowski comes off the bench.
“I think all three of us, we all have the same goal: We want to work, we want to play together and find our chemistry out on the court together,” Chambers said.
“Coming in this year, it’s very clear that we are ready to go, and we’re all excited for the start of the season.”Comments powered by Disqus
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