Kari Clements set all kinds of career marks for Wilmot. Here, she makes a move in March in the Lady Panthers’ sectional semifinal victory. (Photo by Rick Benevides)

Kari Clements set all kinds of career marks for Wilmot. Here, she makes a move in March in the Lady Panthers’ sectional semifinal victory. (Photo by Rick Benevides)

She’s selected Westosha Report’s female athlete of the year

By Dan Truttschel

Sports Correspondent

She may have been quite in terms of words and small in stature, but there’s no downplaying how important former Wilmot girls basketball standout Kari Clements was to that program.

And even four months into her college career, that dedication and work while she was at Wilmot continues to pay dividends.

Clements, now a freshman at Minot State University, has been named this newspaper’s female athlete of the year for 2014.

She joins current Wilmot senior Bryce Kothe and the Westosha Central softball team as other year-end winners. An article on Kothe appears in this week’s edition, while coverage about the Central softball squad will run next week.

Clements, who responded to questions via Facebook, said she enjoyed her time as a Panther.

“Playing basketball for coach (Keiya) Square was a great experience,” she wrote. “Watching him turn our team into back-to-back conference champs was truly inspiring to me.

“Seeing the team set goals, meet goals and continue to grow as a team shows that had work really does pay off.”

Square said his former star left quite the impression on his program.

“Kari was very important to our program and (helping) instill what we were trying to do,” he said in an e-mail.

“She was a player who was able to get a lot of steals in our system and lay the foundation for future kids that if they played defense and knew what they were doing they could be successful at a high level.”

Clements, a two-time Southern Lakes Conference Player of the Year, developed and improved her game every year she was at Wilmot, Square said.

In her senior year, Clements played in all 26 games and led the Panthers in points with 405, made field goals (142), free throws (73), 3-pointers (48), assists (89) and steals (137). She also was second in blocked shots (18) and third in rebounds (104).

All those stats together show the kind of player she became when her time was done, Square said.

“There was a lot of growth,” he said. “Kari came in as a shy offensive-minded player and left a well-round player and person. She was always able to score, but once she figured out that she could also get points from her defense, her game went to a new level.”

All that growth and constant improvement didn’t happen by accident, either, Square said.

There’s only one path to success, and Clements followed it.

“Kari was very motivated,” he said. “She put in a lot of extra time with her shot and overall game. She was always wanting to get better.”

That desire to improve continues today for the redshirt college freshman.

“(That) is a never-ending process from being at every practice to going in on my own to work on my shot, my ball handling and my defense,” Clements said.

Clements said she is adjusting to college life, which now includes plenty of basketball, plenty of travel and her school work.

It can be a balancing act, but it’s one she enjoys and embraces.

“As a college athlete, you learn to overcome the challenges that you are faced with,” she said. “I have learned to manage my time wisely, because with basketball going on, I miss a lot of school.

“One advantage I have this year is being a redshirt. I get that extra year of experience, not only with basketball, but with my school work, too. … I’m glad I made that decision, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

And it’s that work ethic and drive that Square hopes rubbed off on his current team and down into the program’s lower levels.

If those players picked up even a little bit from her, the Panthers will be in good shape, he said.

“Hard work pays off,” Square said. “She loves the game of basketball, and if you are willing to put the time in, good things will happen for you.”



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