In their own right: Women’s basketball club chases national title in its own version of March Madness



By Ethan Levine

Basketball is alive again in the bluegrass.

While the UK men’s and women’s basketball teams have both made runs in the NCAA tournament, one UK basketball team has already brought a title back to campus.

Earlier this month, the UK women’s club basketball team won the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association regional basketball tournament held in Atlanta. UK head coach Wayne Chiles created the club team at UK in 2001 and has worked hard to help it blossom into a successful program ever since.

“(The team) provides a positive environment for those who love to compete in basketball,” Chiles said. “It is very competitive and we travel a lot, but it has a strong tradition here at UK.”

Since Chiles created the team in 2001 they have not failed to earn their keep at UK. The team won an NIRSA national title in 2004, was runner-up in the same event in both 2005 and 2006, and won the ACIS regional champions in 2008.

The club has also defeated some National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics schools, like Midway College and St. Catherine’s College.

Chiles said having a strong core of players has led to the team’s success.

“The players like each other a lot,” Chiles said. “We have great leadership and great captains. With only two practices a week, we need great leadership to make this team work. All of my great teams in the past had great leadership on the floor.”

One of those leaders is team captain Chelsea Chowning, a fourth-year pharmacy student at UK and the regional tournament’s MVP.

“I love the chance to play competitively and the camaraderie that the team has built through traveling and playing together,” Chowning said.

Chowning isn’t short on big-time basketball experience. She played two years on Xavier’s varsity team and played one season for UK’s varsity team in 2007-08. As one of the oldest and most experienced players on the team, she takes it upon herself to be a good leader.

“I try to serve as a mediator between the coach and the team,” Chowning said. “My goal is to be a cerebral player and a team player. I take pride in knowing what everyone else on the floor is doing.”

Most players on the team came to UK with experience from playing basketball in high school, including Chowning’s fellow all-tournament team member, Elizabeth Campbell.

All that remains this season is a trip to the NIRSA National Championships in Nashville and the lady Cats intend on bringing home another title.

“We surprised people in Atlanta,” Chowning said. “But if we play with that same intensity when we go to Nashville, we expect to be able to win it.”