Wilsonville's Keira McNamee signs to play basketball at Hope International
As it has been for so many others, 2020 was a tough year for Wilsonville's Keira McNamee.
At the end of her stellar junior season on the Wildcats girls basketball team, McNamee and her teammates were dead-set on winning Wilsonville's first state championship since 2002 — the same year she was born.
After winning their Class 5A state tournament opener — a 49-29 rout of Lebanon in the quarterfinals at Gill Coliseum — McNamee and her third-ranked team felt the first painful impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of squaring off against Northwest Oregon Conference foe La Salle — the second-ranked team in the state and NWOC co-champion — in the state semifinals, McNamee and the Wildcats went home.
Along with the rest of the winter-season teams still in action, Wilsonville, La Salle and everyone else were unceremoniously sent home as fear of the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world.
In more than nine months since then, McNamee and her teammates have seen their lives changed dramatically, attending school online through the spring, fall and into winter, watching their summer basketball plans and vacations turned upside down, and much more.
Without a doubt, McNamee needed some hope.
And that's just what she got on Dec. 9 when she signed a National Letter of Intent to continue her basketball career and education at Hope International University, an NAIA school located in Fullerton, California.
"This was definitely a light in such a tough time," McNamee said. "It's hard enough to possibly not have a season, but for me to never play again would be really hard. I wouldn't trade this opportunity for anything. I'm so thankful."
As a junior, McNamee — a 5-foot-9 guard — averaged 8.2 points per game, 3.4 assists and 3.6 rebounds while helping lead the Wildcats to a 13-1 record in the NWOC (and that co-championship with La Salle), a 24-3 overall mark and a second straight state tournament berth.
"As a player, Keira has an extremely high basketball IQ and not only understands her role and position, but also those of her teammates which enables her to act as another coach on the floor during practices and games," said Wilsonville coach Justin Duke. "As a teammate, I've seen Keira develop into a natural leader that others want to follow. Her consistent effort, encouragement and persistence to make us the best we can be is second to none and will impact the Wilsonville program long after she graduates this year."
McNamee agreed with Duke's assessment, but knows there's much more work ahead as she prepares for her hoped-for senior season and college basketball.
"I will say I'm a heady player and have a good basketball IQ," said McNamee, who was named to the all-NWOC Honorable Mention team after her junior season. "As far as improvement for playing college ball, I want to increase my shot consistency and become a quicker player."
For his part, Duke is confident in McNamee's chances for success at the next level.
"Keira could easily be the leading scorer for our … team — and most other (high school) teams in the state) — if she knew that is what our team needed most and would give us the best chance at being successful," he said. "To that point, Keira has always set aside any individual statistics or accolades she would have received to make us better as a whole, and her selfless attitude has brought out the best in her teammates."
While McNamee doesn't yet know what her role at Hope International will look like, she's glad to have the opportunity. The 2019-20 Royals went 9-8 in the Golden State Athletic Conference and 19-10 overall before falling in the quarterfinals of the GSAC Tournament.
"Honestly, I'm not sure what my role will be because of COVID, but I'm super excited to play alongside such good people," she said. "I will always be willing to do whatever the team needs from me."
"Keira serves as an important role model and ambassador for our program that drives others to want to be a part of it and I am certain she will have the same impact on her new team and teammates at Hope International," Duke added.
Best of all, perhaps, McNamee's commitment to her new school has given her hope at the end of a difficult year.
"I knew Hope was my place right when I showed up," she said. "The people were so kind and open and I loved that."
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