Entering her first season of college basketball, Kailey Edwards knew court time at the University of Denver was not a given. But the former Legacy High star also knew she had an ace up her sleeve.
The guard made a name for herself as one of the state's top scorers in Legacy's run to the its first Class 5A state championship last season. But it was some of her other skills that were overshadowed by her ability to drive the lane that Edwards believed would make her a prize to the Pioneers.
In short, the freshman's willingness to do the Pioneers' grunt work is what is helping her make ripples in her first year of college hoops.
"I think it's been mostly my willingness to be a hustle player that's earned me a spot," said
Edward's early-career success, with the most minutes of any of the Pioneers' reserves, is just par for the course when it comes to former Legacy players. Few programs in this neck of the woods have produced as many NCAA Division-I players in recent years that have has as much impact on their programs.
Presently, the Lightning boast three players at D-I programs. In addition to Edwards, guard Quincey Noonan is also playing at the University of Denver and former Legacy center Carli Moreland is a major fixture at Southern Utah.
Then there was Melissa Jones, who finished her career at Baylor University in 2011 after making four appearances in the NCAA Tournament that included a trip to the Final Four in 2010 and Elite Eight in 2011.
The list of players is impressive and, from Moreland's perspective, says plenty about her former high school program.
"We all came out of a strong and solid program," she said. "It was an experience I believe helped us all grow and prepared us for a level not a lot of girls are lucky enough to get to play at."
Each of the players have also made their presence felt on their respective teams.
Edwards has already made a splash as Denver's top reserve, averaging 6.6 points per game and the second-most steals on the season with nine. Moreland is working on her third letter with the Thunderbirds, leading her team in rebounding five times this season. And Noonan, before injury hampered the start of her junior season, was one of the Pioneers' top contributors the past two seasons.
The big play by each has added up to plenty for each team. Southern Utah has taken its new conference by storm. The newest member of the Big Sky Conference started off its league schedule Dec. 20 with a win over North Dakota.
"They were voted the No. 4 team in the Big Sky preseason poll," Moreland said. "There are a lot of teams underestimating us this season, but we're aiming for the top of the conference."
The run with their respective schools have the players from one of 5A's perennial powerhouses riding on cloud nine. But they each count themselves lucky to have made such quick transitions to the college level. Not that the jump hasn't come without besting new challenges.
"It has been a step up," Edwards said. "That was something I realized the first practices I had with the team this past summer."
The players' time at Legacy might have helped them to achieve their college dream. But as Moreland points out, their high school team is only a microcosm of playing in one of the top girls basketball states.
"You play against the best, it can't help but prepare you for college," she said.
Follow Elwood on Twitter @ElwoodKShelton.