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Hill Competes, Defeats Odds

By Mark Janssen

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kelsey Hill defines herself as a "competitor."

In her words, "That's in everything I do."

For the last shot, she says, "I want the ball in my hands. I want to make the shot."

In grades, the 3.5 student in agriculture journalism says, "I want to make the best grades of anyone."

In a simple board game of Monopoly with her parents and brothers, she laughs, "Now that gets insane. I have to be the banker because everyone else in the family will cheat. I'm the only one that's honest. I may not win, but I'm not going to cheat."

So, she's saying that her brothers would actually cheat?

"Absolutely," she said with an even bigger laugh. "Our family gets in screaming matches over Monopoly. They're 26 and 13, and I'm 21, but we still fight like kids. We are nails competitive, and mom and dad are competitive, too."

That's what made last year so difficult for the Wildcats' 5-foot-5 senior guard when, a week into practice, she suffered a complete blowout of her left knee. That's anterior cruciate, medial collateral and meniscus.

"It was one of those non-contact, half-court drills where I did a pump fake, drove into the lane and went off my right leg and came down on my left one and blew everything out," said Hill. "The initial impact was the excruciating pain, and then you think of all the hard work you have just put in to get ready for the season, and now will have to put in for the next season."

After sitting out the entire 2009-10 season as the Wildcats limped to a sub-.500 record, Hill is contributing again in a reserve role helping K-State to an 8-1 start to the 2010-11 season.

While her numbers are modest at 11 minutes, 1.9 points per game, Hill says, "It's just so great to be back playing and being active again. I'm just trying to help the team in any way that I can physically, emotionally and mentally. Being a senior, my role is to help the younger players through different areas of the game."

Hill stops short of saying that she's 100 percent due to a cumbersome brace she lugs around on that repaired left knee, but it's due to come off in the near future.

"I can't wait," she said. "It's (the brace) preventing me from doing some things laterally that I could normally do."

Hill has made it a habit of overcoming the odds with the knee issue being the least of her worries.

The Overland Park, Kan., native and St. Thomas Aquinas High School graduate was only two months into her now 21 years of life that Hill had a 105-degree temperature and was diagnosed with viral meningitis.

"They don't know where it came from, but it was a bad deal for a while," said Hill. "Being a Catholic, I was baptized in the hospital and given all the anointing of the sick last rites. My real name is Kelsey Paige Hill, but the Priest blessed me and baptized me as Kelsey Bernadette for Saint Bernadette, so that's my church name."

For the now K-State senior, the life-threatening moment was brought back to life last month when Purdue basketball standout Drey Mingo was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. 

The illness had a potential impact on Hill's K-State program in that Mingo and the Boilermakers played South Dakota State on Nov. 18, which was just prior to SDSU's visit to the K-State campus on Nov. 30. Prior to South Dakota State's continuing its season and coming to Manhattan, all of its players were tested for the disease.

Purdue would cancel its trip the next week to the three-game Caribbean Challenge as Mingo was hospitalized in critical condition for a number of days, but has since recovered.

"I have family from that part of the country and to hear that something like that hit someone of our age that was playing Division I athletics was just unbelievable," said Hill. "My heart goes out to her. It makes you realize how precious life is."