St. Joe's Lee signs to play for Pikeville
HUNTINGTON -- Huntington St. Joe girls basketball sharpshooter Rachel Lee couldn't have asked for a better senior season.
Lee was a consistent scoring option for the Irish during their run to a sixth consecutive Class A state championship and was rewarded with Class A first team and all state honors.
As nice as those honors were, it was another prestigious award recently received that helped dictate where she would continue her college basketball career.
Lee is one of the top students at Huntington St. Joe and has aspirations of becoming a doctor like her parents, Patricia and Paul.
Her decision on where to sign to play became more clear after opening a letter from the University of Pikeville accepting her into the pre-med program there. On Thursday morning, she made it official, signing with the Bears to start her journey as a college student-athlete.
"That was my big push to pick UPike," Lee said. "I got that letter and I freaked out about it. My dad has a video of me sprint-reading the acceptance letter. I had to decide by that (next) Friday and I had to go through the pros and cons of each school. There really weren't any cons to UPike."
UPike head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee attended Thursday's signing at St. Joe and was excited to add a well-rounded student-athlete to the Bears' program.
There is a definite symmetry between Bernabei and Lee, in terms of their backgrounds. Bernabei-McNamee, who is from Weirton, W.Va., was a standout basketball player at Madonna, leading her team to three consecutive Class A state tournament appearances.
Each of the two also hit the coveted 1,000-point mark during the state tournament their senior year -- a memory that was one of Lee's goals coming into the season.
"I went in (to the state tournament) and I wanted to get my 1,000th point and I hoped for all-tournament," Lee said. "When they called my name, I was like 'Whoa.' Looking at the stat sheets, I did pretty well. I pushed myself and that's what I was hoping to do."
St. Joe coach Shannon Lewis, who has coached Lee since fourth grade, beamed about how her shooting consistency developed over her senior season. It wasn't only the consistency aspect, but also the timeliness of her shots with many coming in crucial late-game situations.
"It seemed like when teams made runs or big shots needed to be hit, it was Rachel," Lewis said. "I don't think she could've scripted this season out better."
Lewis and Lee got to enjoy one final moment on the court together last weekend when Lewis coached Lee and the West Virginia team in a win over Kentucky in an all-star game.
While Lee will now head to Kentucky for her college hoops career, she will take a piece of history with her. Bernabei-McNamee brought a pair of jerseys with her, showing that Lee will remain No. 30 as she has since fourth grade.
It will mean a change in colors -- from the blue and gold of St. Joe to the orange and black of UPike -- but Lee said the change and a new chapter is a good thing.
In the end, it was just what the (future) doctor ordered.