Three former Lady Hounds and one former Lady Colonel are currently playing together at the University of the Cumberlands as JV Lady Patriots.
Corbin’s Natalye Gallagher and Meghann Blackburn graduated with the class of 2015. They were members of the 2012-13 and 2013-14 girls basketball teams that won 50th District and 13th Region championships. As seniors in 2014-15, they helped lead the team to an 18-12 overall record, as well as another district title.
Candice Gulley graduated from Corbin with the class of 2016 after helping the Lady Hounds to yet another district championship season.
Brandi Smith graduated from Whitley County High School in 2014. As the Lady Colonels’ go-to scorer, she led the team to 20-plus win seasons and appearances in the 13th Region tournament her sophomore, junior and senior campaigns. She is without a doubt one of the best to ever wear a Whitley basketball uniform.
That was then, but this is now. While their many high school accomplishments will certainly never be forgotten, these four talented athletes have now set out to make their mark in the world of college basketball. Things are a bit different here, no doubt, but all of these players are putting in the hard work necessary to be successful at the next level.
Before their season finale against visiting Bryan College Monday, these four Lady Patriots took a few minutes to discuss what life is like in college, what they miss about their high school days, their hopes for the future and more.
What is the story of how you came to play at UC?
Smith – My first year of college I decided that I was going to take a break from ball because it was getting pretty stressful, but after my freshman year I really missed it. I decided to come out, I met a lot of good people, I really liked it and I found myself getting right back into the groove.
Blackburn – I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to play anything in college, but I felt like I had a pretty good senior season in high school. I didn’t really want to just leave it there. I felt like I wasn’t ready to hang it up just yet, so I talked to the coaches here and decided that this would be a good place for me.
Gallagher – Kind of like Brandi, I took a year off, but then I realized that I was missing something. I was playing pick-up ball a lot, so decided to go ahead and play since some of my friends were doing it. I liked it, and decided to join the team this year.
Gulley – I didn’t really know if I was going to play or not. I hadn’t really decided, but I gave it all I had my senior year in high school, and a lot of people began to talk to me about how I was playing really well. Coach Mac (Jason McDaniel) told me that my best years of basketball were ahead of me, so we talked to the coaches here, and I decided to play. I don’t regret it for a second.
What has the experience been like?
Smith – This level is a lot more competitive, so it’s a bit challenging, but overall it’s been a lot of fun.
Blackburn – It’s been a really good experience. It’s a different setting, and you’re playing against people who are a little bit more talented. It’s very different from high school, but it’s definitely been a good experience.
Gallagher – There isn’t anything like being a Redhound. We had a lot more fan support in high school, but this is still basketball. It’s a lot more competitive at this level, though.
Gulley – In high school you had to wait your turn, but in college you just get to play if you’re talented enough, and if you try hard enough. If you put enough effort into getting out on the court, then the opportunity is given to you. You really have to work for yourself, but I’m enjoying it a lot.
How does this differ from high school?
Smith – The fans. I still have my family and friends supporting me, but it’s just not the same as it was at Whitley County. I also really like my coaches here. They’ve been very helpful.
Blackburn – I think the biggest difference between high school and here is the feeling you get when you walk onto the court. It’s not that it’s not as important… It’s just a different atmosphere. I don’t always get the butterflies when I walk onto the court here like I did when I was at Corbin.
Gallagher – At Corbin people knew you because of the fact that you played basketball. Here, no one really knows that I play except for on the days that I wear my team sweats.
Gulley – The thing that is most different for me is the coaching situation. We have two female coaches, and I find that it’s a little bit easier to relate to and communicate with them. Coach Mac was great, and he would talk to me about anything, but it’s just a little different here.
What do you miss most about high school?
Smith – Playing with some of my friends on the team.
Blackburn – The community that we had. You grow up with the people that you play with from your time in middle school, all the way up through high school. I think that is probably what I miss the most. That, and those butterflies you get when you’re on the floor.
Gallagher – I definitely miss the excitement the most, especially being the one that jumped for the ball. The feelings that you get in high school basketball are just a lot different. I don’t know if it’s like that at every school, but it definitely was at Corbin.
Gulley – People say that high school is the best four years of your life, and I think that is true with basketball as well. I really do miss some of the people that I played with, and getting to see them every day.
What do you like about playing in college?
Smith – I like the competitiveness of the game at this level.
Blackburn – You don’t have to be told everything here. Everyone is a big girl, and there are things that everyone just knows. Everyone just goes out and plays.
Gallagher – The competitiveness is good. It’s also not as stressful.
Gulley – I like how it’s not as stressful. It’s JV college basketball, so there are typically not as many people in the stands. There’s not as much pressure, and everybody is just playing. We’re just playing to have fun, and to win of course.
What are your hopes for the future?
Smith – I just want to win as much as we can during the next couple of seasons. I want to be competitive, and have as much fun as I can with my teammates.
Blackburn – I want to have fun, and get that undefeated season.
Gallagher – If I play for the next three years, then I want them all to be undefeated. We came close this year, but we took a loss early.
Gulley – I just want to make memories that will last a lifetime, and have a good time doing it.
UC Associate Head Coach Olivia Farmer said of her four players, “Brandi and Meghann are the two that I’ve known the longest. They have both played two years for us, and they work super hard every day. Candice and Natalye have come in this year, also working hard every day, and all four will typically score in every game for us.”
“They are all great girls,” Farmer continued. “They’re fun to be around, and they’re always willing to do whatever we need them to do. I think they will all be starters for us next year. They have a great future ahead of them, and they’re going to succeed at whatever they decide to do. I think they’ll all go far.”
Editor’s Note: After these interviews Monday, the JV Lady Patriots finished out their season with an impressive 87-52 over Bryan College to end the year with an overall record of 12-1. Smith, Blackburn, Gallagher and Gulley all played major roles in the win for UC.