By Steve Svetovich
Dunmore High School graduate Kayleigh Semion could have played Division II or III college basketball just about wherever she wanted, but her dream was to go to Penn State.
When she enrolled at Penn State she thought her basketball career could be over, but it wasn’t. Now the 2015 Times-Tribune Player of Year is really living her dream.
She is a key member of the Penn State University women’s club basketball team.
And while it is not Division I varsity level, this team plays a brand of highly competitive basketball with six to eight tournaments throughout the year. The team practices at least two hours three nights per week.
Daughter of Sherry Nicolais and step-daughter of Mark Nicolais, Kayleigh, 20, is a sophomore Kinesiology major with aspirations to eventually become a physical therapist.
An All Regional and second team All State point guard at Dunmore in her senior season, she had opportunities to play division II or III college basketball, but her dream was to attend Penn State.
Then the opportunity came to tryout for the club basketball team. The tryout was competitive and intense, but Kayleigh, a sophomore at Penn State, made the roster. Now she gets to attend Penn State and play basketball.
With over 1,200 career points at Dunmore, she quickly became a key member of the club basketball team. She averaged 14.0 points, 5.0 assists and 4.0 steals per game in her senior season at Dunmore and is playing that same type of game for the Penn State club team. She averaged 8.0 points and 4.5 assists mostly coming off the bench for the club team this season.
She helped her Penn State club team place in third place in the National Intramural Recreational Sports Association Championship tournament last month at Ohio State University. Her team beat Virginia Tech, Ohio University and the University of Connecticut, but lost to Air Force. She came off the bench to score 13 points against Virginia Tech.
Kayleigh was named to the All-Tournament team following the Regional Championship Tournament at Boston University earlier this year. Her Penn State club team won that tournament.
“It is very competitive basketball,” she said. ” It is on the level of division II or III college basketball. We practice hard and get to go away to games. We get to practice all the time. The games are highly competitive. The players love to compete. It is a terrific experience. And it is great representing Penn State.”
Breana Toro, former Lackawanna League all-star from Abington Heights, is a member of her club team.
Two of the girls on the club team were promoted to the Penn State varsity roster after injuries to players last season. Most of the girls on the club team attend the varsity games.
And Kayleigh is even a manager for the Penn a State varsity team.
“I will do anything I can to stay in the game,” she said. “I love basketball.”
The scholar-athlete has an impressive 3.8 grade point average at Penn State. She takes a lot of what Dunmore coach Ben O’Brien instilled in her. “He taught me about work ethic . He is really into what he does as a coach. He really helped me as a basketball player.”
Kayleigh also ran track at Dunmore and was a twirler.
She and her two sisters Brittany and Meredith learned twirling from her mom, a prominent twirling instructor in Dunmore.
“My mom always teaches me to go after whatever I want in life 110 percent at a time. She tells me to go after it full speed.”
Personable and full of life, Kayleigh knows she is living her dream at Penn State. “I love it here,” she said. “I always dreamed of going here. I look around and here I am. I love the atmosphere here. And I still get to play basketball.”
Kayleigh said she likes listening to music in her spare time. She would like to see Ed Sheeran in concert.
And while she continues to do what she loves at her dream college, Kayleigh thinks of her future. “I want to get into a physical therapy school after graduation. It is highly competitive, but I want to become a physical therapist.”
And competition seems to be something Kayleigh Semion thrives on.