CATAWBA, N.C. - Former Bunker Hill standout basketball player Kellie Rhoney saved her best for last. Pfeiffer University’s persistent point guard has the Lady Falcons soaring higher than ever this season. The 5-foot-6 senior credits a newfound team chemistry to most of her team’s success this season.
“In the past, we never really meshed together and clicked as a team,” she said. “We had a lot of individual players and as everyone knows, it takes five people on the court working together to win games. This year is the closest we have ever been. We really work off of each other and play together, which has had a overall positive result. Whether we win or not, we always find something good to take away from each game.”
Rhoney’s play can also be a contributing factor to Pfeiffer’s success on the court.
Through Wednesday, Rhoney ranks fifth in NCAA Div. II in assists at 6.3 per game. Getting her teammates involved on the court is nothing new to Rhoney.
“Throughout high school, I’ve always put more of a focus into distributing the ball to my teammates to better their scoring position,” she said. “It has become one of my biggest strengths as a point guard. I would rather get an assist over points any day.”
Pfeiffer defeated Erskine College 79-66 on Jan. 9, and in the process, set a new school team record for assists in a game.
The Lady Falcons tallied 26 assists in that contest — 11 of them off of the hands of Rhoney.
Pfeiffer women’s basketball coach Jill Thomas said Rhoney’s court vision is uncanny.
“Kellie’s ability to see the basketball floor and her teammates is like none other,” Thomas said. “She is truly a very special point guard. She is the backbone to our team and a very big reason for our early success.”
Not only does Rhoney pride herself in helping out her teammates, but also in taking care of the basketball.
Through Wednesday, she is No. 1 in Div. II in assist to turnover ratio at 3.14.
“Since I first picked up a basketball, I have always put more emphasis on ball handling more than shooting and defense,” Rhoney said. “I try to focus on not making mistakes and usually set goals before every game that I hold myself accountable for. Distributing the ball and not committing turnovers is a main responsibility for a point guard, and I try to be the best in both of those aspects.”
Rhoney ranks as one of the all-time leaders in Bunker Hill girls basketball, tallying 1,104 points, 342 assists, 276 steals, 78 3-pointers and 307 free throws in her career with the Lady Bears.
Four times, Rhoney was named an All-Catawba Valley 2A selection and her team’s Most Valuable Player.
Catawba Valley Community College women’s basketball coach Tommy Edwards, who coached Rhoney at Bunker Hill for three seasons, knew she was a special player.
“Kellie was the dream of every basketball coach,” Edwards said. “She was a point guard that could use both hands. She was quick. She could push the ball down the floor. She could get you into your offense. She could penetrate. She could score. She could get the ball to the open player. Because of her quickness, she was also an excellent defensive player. She was a ‘true’ point guard and floor leader. Even though she got picked on by many because of her shorter height, her heart and love for the game were immeasurable.”
Thomas saw similar qualities in Rhoney when she recruited her four years ago.
“I knew Kellie was going to be a very special player right from the start because of her love for assists,” Thomas said. “It is very rare that a player wants more assist then points. After every game, Kellie is more concerned with her assist to turnover ratio.”
Rhoney’s offensive play has also picked up.
She has connected 19 times on 3-pointers this season after making 26 all of last season.
Her 42.2 percentage from 3-point territory ranks second in Conference Carolinas only to Barton College’s Nyeshea Willie.
“I've never really been a scorer, but this year has been different for me,” Rhoney said. “I've found my shot and feel comfortable enough to take an open shot if I have it, whereas in the past I would never shoot. I would say I'm a threat both inside and outside because I like to keep people on their toes. I know I have the ability to score either way.”
Behind Rhoney, the Lady Falcons are 9-2 overall and 4-2 in Conference Carolinas play — one of the best starts in Pfeiffer women's basketball history.
Thomas believes Rhoney is a huge part of that success and is proud to coach the Catawba County product.
“Kellie has stepped up her game tremendously,” Thomas said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the person and player Kellie has become and can’t wait to see how her career here ends. She will leave a very big mark and can never be replaced.”