She prayed about it. She lost sleep about it. And she prayed about it some more.
That's just a glimpse of what Marqueshia Kelly went through before deciding to turn down a half dozen basketball scholarships and accept a scholarship to play volleyball at Paris Junior College.
The journey might have been a little sleepless, but in the end it wasn't that tough for Kelly, who is a multi-sport star at Kerens.
“I followed my heart,'' she said on Tuesday just moments after signing a letter-of-intent to play volleyball at Paris in front of family, coaches and friends.
It's a big one. Kelly plays everything with a big heart, and that's one reason she had choices, albeit difficult ones.
She was not only an All-Golden Circle player in both sports, but was the Golden Circle Co-Offensive Player of the Year in volleyball and the Golden Circle Defensive Player of the Year in basketball.
Kelly was the District 14-1A Defensive Player of the Year in volleyball and put up some incredible numbers this fall while helping Kerens reach the third round of the playoffs, the best in the school's history.
She will forever be remembered at Kerens, where she became the first player in the school's history to earn a volleyball scholarship, and the coaches at Paris believe by the time she leaves the East Texas school that she will have left her mark there, too.
“She's replacing an All-American who was one of the best blockers in the nation,'' Paris Coach Justin Maness said Tuesday. “Hopefully, she can fill that void for us and be an All-American in a couple of years. We think she has the potential to be an All-American. We're exited to have her. We think she can step in right away and have an impact.''
Anyone who has ever seen Kelly play knows she can be devastating at the net, a 5-10 dynamo who leaps like a gazelle and drives the ball like a cannon. Kelly didn't grow up playing in year-round volleyball clubs. She didn't even walk onto the court until she was in seventh grade and even then it wasn't easy.
“I was on the B team,'' Kelly said. “I didn't like volleyball then. When I was a freshman I moved up from the JV to the varsity and that gave me motivation.''
Still, even with her late start, now she can dominate.
“She's extremely athletic,'' Maness said. “She does some things by instinct most people have to be taught to do.”
And she does it all with a fire all her own.
“She has a passion for volleyball,'' said Kerens volleyball Coach Kristen Lynch, who wasn't surprised when Kelly chose a future in volleyball. “I've always known. I see the passion she has. The difference in volleyball (and basketball) is there's something there, a love and passion for the game. She loves playing volleyball. You can see that spark in her eye when she's playing volleyball.''
Kelly was a big reason the program, which is only six years old, has soared. She had 304 kills, 165 blocks and 87 digs and had impact on and off the court.
“I'm going to really miss her,'' Lynch said. “She was the team captain and leader of the team. I expect big things from her. I feel she can be a Division I player. She has that kind of talent.''
Kelly is a high school superstar in both sports and runs the first leg on both of Kerens' relay teams that won the district track tittles last week.
She had impact in the fall, and has been a four-year starter in basketball. Kelly is one of the big reasons Kerens made it to the state tournament in Austin twice in the last three years in basketball, including this year's run to the Class 1A DI state title game. She's a force, a tenacious rebounder who is smooth around the basket and the best shot blocker in this part of Texas. But she knew it was time to leave.
“I prayed about it all the time,'' Kelly said. “It was a hard decision. People were in my ear, telling me that 'You've been playing basketball all your life.' But I want to be happy.
“I've been playing basketball since Lil Dribblers when I was 10,'' Kelly said. “I feel like I was playing basketball for so long that it kind of wore on me.''
Kelly, who could be a model if she wanted to go that route, wants to do something in fashion design in her future and is undecided on her major. She has been a star in the classroom as well and has a 3.4 GPA.
No one knows how much she will improve when she plays just one sport in college. Maness said her ceiling is incredibly high, and Lynch said there's no doubt in her mind that Kelly will play Division I volleyball. That's the plan.
“Yes, I think I can play Division I,'' Kelly said. “I love volleyball. It's more fun. This is what I want to do.''
And she said those words the same way she plays the game — with her heart.
She prayed about it. She lost sleep about it. And she prayed about it some more.
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