Jan. 3, 2000
By Tom Kolbe
While college is a time of adjusting and creating an identity, it appears to be easier for some students than it is for others. For some motivation is a problem, while others do all they can to create a solid foundations for achieving goals and creating memories.
Junior Kelley Siemon came to Notre Dame in pursuit of a degree in sociology along with the opportunity to play basketball for one of the nation's elite programs. While realizing her vast dreams, Siemon new she would not be alone and would always have the support of her family to get through both the good and bad times.
As a senior at Edina High School in Edina. Minn., Siemon earned USA Today honorable mention All-America honors after averaging 21.0 points and 11.0 rebounds as a senior.
She quickly became a dominant presence in the Notre Dame lineup as a rookie during the 1997-98 campaign in which she averaged 8.0 points and 5.2 rebounds while starting 30 of 32 contests. The Irish finished with a 22-10 record and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive year.
Last season, Siemon once again was a mainstay in the starting lineup (30 starts in 31 games) as she posted averages of 5.8 points and 5.0 rebounds during a season in which the Irish finished with a 26-5 record.
Now a junior, Siemon faces a different challenge this season in an altered role coming off the bench as a backup to senior Julie Henderson. Currently averaging 5.5 points, she is comfortable with her new role coming off the bench, but continues to look for new ways improve her game.
"This year has been better than last year because I was in a little bit of a slump (last season)," Siemon says. "I am working on regaining my confidence and focusing on doing some of the things I know I can do to make our team better and lead us into the NCAA tournament."
The best game of the young 1999-2000 season for Siemon came against then eighth-ranked North Carolina as she tallied a season-high 12 points and grabbed five rebounds in a convincing 99-86 victory over the Tar Heels.
"I am probably not yet playing at the level I should," Siemon says. "I still have some improving to do as far as the season goes and as far as becoming the offensive threat I hope to be."
One of several experienced veterans on this year's team, Siemon is a player who knows the road to success and the many twists and turns it can take. A starter in all five NCAA tournament games she has participated in, experience in the big games has led Siemon to contemplate the path of this year's team.
"As a team, we still can be better and need to make improvements with each practice and game," Siemon remarks. "We have let up against some easier teams and played better against the competitive ones. In order to improve, we need to become more consistent."
Siemon has maintained her positive attitude and knows she others depend on her and the role she plays.
"It has been somewhat different for me being out of the starting lineup," she says. "I hope that I'm a spark for the team and give them the boost they need when I come off the bench. I try to play hard and be aggressive while getting the little things done. It is a different role, but one that I'm willing to assume."
Siemon intends to remain positive and make the most of her opportunity on the floor.
"I am still getting the same amount of playing time (as last season)," Siemon says. "I feel comfortable with the way I have adapted to the different role."
In maintaining her philosophy, Siemon believes she is an important part of the puzzle of success for the Irish this year.
"It is how you help your team when you are in the game that really matters," Siemon says. "As long as I perform well while in the game, I am not worried about starting or coming off the bench."
While Siemon, who hails from an athletic family, has enjoyed much success at Notre Dame, she looks to her family when she is in need of some answers. Her father, Jeff, played football for the Minnesota Vikings, while her other siblings - a brother and two sisters - all have participated in athletics at one time or another.
"I have a lot of support from my family," she says. "It is always nice to call home following a game and get some encouragement and advice from them. Listening to my parents and training hard has made me the kind of player I am today."
Over the past two years, Siemon has relied heavily on the support system of her family. Her appreciation and admiration for their steadfast guidance has grown with each passing year.
"My parents have helped me more in the past two years than I ever remembering them helping me in high school," Siemon says. "I have had good times as well as struggles, but they have always been there for me. Calling home has helped me a lot."
Religion has been a key component for the entire Siemon family as it provides an additional angle in solving some of life's greatest tests.
"My father is in the ministry now and he really helps assure me of my faith," Siemon says. "Our family has a very solid Christian foundation that has reminded me that the trying times are just a test of faith."
It has been her family that has provided the initiative for Siemon's success and motivation, and the foundation by which she lives out her daily life.
Confident in the role she plays on this team, Siemon knows and understands what it will take for the Irish to reach their ultimate goal - a national championship.
"Coquese Washington (assistant coach) has been telling me to make the most of my time on the floor," Siemon says. "She continually emphasizes the importance of making the most out of my playing time. She stresses the importance of every game, and that each one of has to be willing to make sacrifices and leave nothing on the floor during practices and in games."
It is that philosophy which Siemon believes will ultimately lead
she her teammate to the goals they have set this season.