By Joseph Hayes
Rachel Kehoe carried the dream of becoming a professional basketball player years ago.
Looking back, maybe it really shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the 6-foot-4 post player from St. Clair made it to where she envisioned.
“I remember one day, when I was a junior in high school, I was talking to one of my favorite teachers and had jokingly made a remark about being a pro basketball player one day,” Kehoe recently recalled. “He completely shot me down. He asked me if I knew how few people went on to play pro or even D1. I don’t think he was trying to be mean, but was trying to be realistic about it. I remember feeling pretty crushed afterwards.
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“After my senior year I signed to play at SC4 and had two fantastic seasons there before signing with Eastern Michigan where I played my last two years of college basketball. After my senior season, and with some help, I sent some of my film out to a bunch of different agents with a short little introduction of who I was and my stats. Only one agent emailed me back. He said he would like to work with me and would like to send me a contract. A couple of months later I was flying overseas for the first time to play in Spain and I could barely believe what was happening. I was so excited.”
But looking back, Kehoe may have never imagined she would embark on the path she has been on all of these years.
She wasn’t the star player in high school or in college. She was a team player who always seemed to be playing an important role as a 6-foot-4 post player.
She now plays professional basketball in the Dame Ligaen, in Lemvig, Denmark.
After graduating St. Clair High School, she attended St. Clair County Community College. That team would go on a near championship run as a junior college team, before she went on to graduate from Eastern Michigan University.
Kehoe’s basketball opportunities have continued since. She was currently playing over in Denmark when the coronavirus began.
“Before the outbreak I was playing in Lemvig, a small town in Denmark,” Kehoe, 26, said. “I actually came here at the Christmas break halfway through the season. The team had been looking for a post player and was in contact with my agent. I ended up talking to the coach and signing here for the remainder of the season.”
“In Denmark, we had just begun playoffs when the virus reached Europe. At first our league was suspended in the hopes that it would all be over quickly, but after a couple of weeks it was officially cancelled.”
Kehoe said part of her development as a player as come as she has learned to take care of her body better as an athlete.
“Over the past few years I’ve grown a lot off and on the court,” Kehoe noted. “I’m continuing to learn and develop my skills as a player and expand my game. Taking care of my body has become a bigger priority for me. In college it was easier for me because I conditioned and worked out with my team whereas the past few years that wasn’t always the case.
“I may have certain workouts with my team, but then need to make sure I’m doing extra cardio or exercises on my own. Now that I’m getting older, not that I’m old I’m just no longer a teenager, it’s more important that I eat right and take care of my body to help it recover and prevent injuries.”
When Kehoe saw her basketball career begin to take off in high school, it came during a time where she was first discovering who she was as a player.
“My experience in high school was really positive,” Kehoe said. “My team was probably only .500, but I had a few good coaches and enjoyed the experience. During my time at SC4 I developed a lot as a player. The atmosphere of the team was really competitive, but also fun at times. We had a great coach (Mike Groulx) who led us to Nationals both years on top of winning the league, regional, and state championships. Some days I would leave so frustrated after practice or a game, but get right back at it the next day. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.
“On the court I became a more fundamentally sound player and a bit more confident in what I could do. I learned to more openly accept criticism and use it as a tool to become a better player (and sometimes person).”
That process just took an even bigger step when Kehoe left for Eastern Michigan University and later became a professional player.
“Each school I went to was a step up from the previous one in regards to the level of play and professionalism of it,” Kehoe said. “Obviously when I went from high school to SC4 there was a difference in the level of play and the workouts and drills in practice might go more in depth. When I went from community college to university it was again another step for me.
“The level of play was higher and it felt like the players on average were a lot stronger and the pace of the game was quicker. The practices/workouts were more intense and we did a lot more in the weight room than I had ever done before.
Going from university to playing overseas I had to apply what I had learned into what I was doing. Basketball for the most part is the same wherever you go, although the style of it and maybe a couple of rules may be different. In some places the game is more physical and in others it may be more finesse or more passing.
“The reffing may also vary overall from league to league. For me the biggest thing was conditioning and making my own workouts outside of regular team practices. That was something that I had always done with my team during the season.”
Now that she has seen how the sport has positively affected her over the years, Kehoe is leaving her options open in terms of her future.
“My long term goals are to become the best player that I can be and to make the most of playing while I am still able to,” Keheo said. (After basketball) My plan is to go back to school to become a dietician or nurse. I would like to stay involved in the sports world whether it is through coaching, work, or even working with kids to encourage them to pursue their dreams.”