BRIGHAM CITY — The evidence is overwhelming that Keslee Stevenson was born to be a basketball player.
First, there’s her lineage.
Her mother, Kristin, played basketball at Roy High School and then the College of Southern Idaho. She was such a prolific shooter that she said one newspaper reporter dubbed her “The Blonde Bomber.”
2016-17 ALL-AREA GIRLS BASKETBALL
Both of Keslee’s uncles (her mom’s brothers) played basketball at Roy before going on to play in college. Rod Belnap, now the principal at Fremont High, played at the College of Eastern Utah (now Utah State University Eastern) and Mesa State College (now Colorado Mesa University), while Shane Belnap played at Salt Lake Community College and later the University of Montana.
Then, there’s the physical evidence.
Just a few minutes after Keslee was born, her grandfather made a remark that she had basketball hands because of her long fingers. There’s a photo of her at 2 years old, asleep on the couch with a basketball.
As Keslee continued to grow, the magnetic relationship between her and the basketball became stronger.
“It was mostly a ball, rather than a Barbie,” said Keslee’s father, Troy Stevenson.
Finally, there’s the talent.
Before she started high school, Keslee was already beating her father in games of pig or horse.
Her mom called her “kind of a natural” because of how easily things seemed to come for her.
“She was probably 10 or 12, and just looking at her form; it was perfect form,” Kristin Stevenson said. “I don’t think I ever had perfect form at that age.”
Keslee started as a freshman for the Box Elder High girls basketball team three years ago, and this past season as a senior, she averaged a team-high 15.5 points per game while making over 30 percent from beyond the arc. Box Elder won its first region championship since 1981 and advanced to the 4-A state semifinals.
Before this season started, she signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Dixie State University. There, she will join with Utah’s 2017 Gatorade Player of the Year, Taylor Moeaki from American Fork, and Mariah Martin from Alta.
It’s obvious Keslee belongs on the basketball court, and it’s equally obvious there is no better selection for 2016-17 Standard-Examiner All-Area Girls Basketball Team’s Most Valuable Player.
“She’s changed our program at Box Elder and worked dang hard,” Box Elder coach Aaron Dooley said.
Dooley just finished his third season coaching girls basketball at Box Elder. Upon arriving at Box Elder, he said it was apparent Keslee was “a program changer.” She was a team captain the last two years.
One of her top attributes, according to Dooley, is her competitiveness.
“Keslee just wants to compete. She has always just wanted to compete and do her best, but also have the team do its best,” he said.
It was that competitive drive that led her to decide it was time to end a region championship drought at Box Elder that spanned three and a half decades..
“We all had a feeling and a goal that we could change the banner,” Keslee said.
She admits when she joined the Box Elder girls basketball program as a freshman, she took note of the dearth of region titles.
“I remember coming here as a freshman, not really knowing what the program was about yet, but seeing the banner, and I was like, ‘Oh. That’s kind of a while ago,’” Keslee said.
She wasn’t discouraged, though, because she knew good players had come through Box Elder.
Box Elder won 19 of its first 20 games this season and ended up sharing the region title with Highland.
When Box Elder played its final region and home game on Feb. 16, Keslee noticed the difference in how the program was viewed by how many people showed up.
“You see these people at boys games every night, but girls games don’t usually get as much support, and seeing our whole student body and the community come together was super cool,” Keslee said.
Keslee helped make it all possible through her resiliency. Even after she suffered a concussion — her third at that point — and was forced to sit out the majority of her sophomore season, she came back.
She tore ligaments in her right ankle after landing on someone’s foot during a comp game in Denver last July, but made it back in time for the start of the high school basketball season.
In Box Elder’s fifth game of the season, she sprained her shooting wrist badly enough she needed to be taken to the hospital for an X-ray. She missed just one game.
“Knock on wood, but I’ve never broken a bone, so that’s neat,” Keslee said. “Goodness sakes. From head to toe, there’s been quite the things, but it’s been fun.
“I get teased a lot for my injuries, but hey — we changed the banner.”
Rod Belnap said “the game’s been good” to the family and is proud of how Keslee has continued carrying the torch.
“We grew up playing the game and we really loved the game,” he said. “It gave us a lot of relationships and memories, and it’s great to see Keslee do as well as she has. She loves to play. She really loves to play.”