MANSFIELD, Ark. — Kaylee Ward has always been the tallest person in her class.
“Sometimes I would think it was embarrassing, but then I got used to it,” Ward said.
Now, she’s 6-foot-3, and the tallest player on the Mansfield girls’ basketball team.
Oh yeah, and she’s only a freshman.
“I’ve talked to several guys, coaching mentors I have, coaching friends that talk about how crazy it is that someone like Kaylee Ward is in Mansfield, Arkansas," said Ethan Bowman, Mansfield girls' basketball head coach.
“I assume there’s a handful of them in the country," Bowman said.
Bowman and the Lady Tigers are happy that one of them resides in Mansfield.
In this town of just over 1,000 people, the 15-year-old is already a rising star. She is averaging a double double in her first year of high school ball: 12 points and 11 rebounds to go with 2.5 blocks per game.
“She makes mistakes, she’s raw, she’s still young and has potential,” Bowman said. “You see her do those good things, and you can’t help but think what she could be as a senior. She’s just a freshman right now. It gets you really excited.”
It already has college coaches excited.
Kaylee picked up her first college offer from Central Arkansas when she was in the 8th grade. Now she’s up to five Division I offers.
“I have University of Arkansas, UCA, University of Tulsa, University of Colorado and Mississippi State.”
Getting that offer from Mike Neighbors and the Razorbacks has been one of the highlights so far.
“I went to go visit there and we were at a football game and Mike told me he was going to offer me,” Ward said. “I put my hand over my mouth and was like, no way.”
As college coaches take more notice of her, so do younger members of the Mansfield community.
“I’m at the middle school and you’ve got these seventh and sixth graders, and they talk about it nonstop,” Bowman said.
“I hope that people look back and say that they can do it too,” Ward said. “They can go where I’m at. They can be where I’m at.”
And how far she goes, her coach says there is no limit.
“Potential is just potential without hard work,” Bowman said. “We’ve got to continue to work, continue to get better.”
“But there is times you will watch her play a game, in practice, and as a coach, you’re like, it’s amazing.”