Kelsey Kahle still remembers the two hands.
She was a senior at North Marion High School, and girls basketball coach Dennis Melcher had asked her if she wanted to coach a group of local fifth-graders on a PRYDE youth team.
I remember the first day of practice, not really knowing how it was going to go, and I dont really remember there being another coach, she said. I asked if any of them had played organized basketball before, and two girls raised their hands.
As a 17-year-old, that was quite the learning experience. But I knew I liked coaching then.
So perhaps it comes as little surprise to see where Kahle has landed. After a phenomenal career with the Portland State womens basketball program during which she set numerous school records, the 2005 graduate of North Marion has returned to help the Huskies on the hardwood. She is currently in her first season as an assistant coach on the girls varsity team.
Kahle isnt the only North Marion alumna on Melchers staff, which also includes two of her former teammates in Julie Melcher and Shelby Maguire.
Both bring additional college-level experience to the program. Melcher played at University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., while Maguire played at Hope International University in Fullerton, Calif.
I love it, Kahle said. Its a perfect situation to be able to work with two teammates who I respected so much playing with, and being able to work alongside them now. Weve gotten to rekindle the friendships we had before. Were even more on the same page now.
For Kahle, who is also an English teacher at the high school where she was both valedictorian and senior class president, its a reunion that underscores the value of giving back in the North Marion community.
Its just fun to be able to go and work back for a school that had such a positive impact on us, that gave us such a positive experience, she said. Its fun to give back in the same community, to pay it forward. We all feel that way. Thats why there are alums there. They had a good experience and want to give (the current students) as good an experience as they had.
Kahle said its an added bonus to work with Dennis Melcher. He was the coach during her playing days at North Marion, when she was a two-time all-state honoree and received first-team all-league recognition four times.
Its fun to be able to learn from him and contribute alongside, she said. Its a fun dynamic. I really look forward to being at practice and our games.
Kahle is one of the most accomplished athletes in Huskies history she was recently inducted into the schools athletics hall of fame but she carries herself humbly. She shies away from the spotlight, quickly deflecting praise and highlighting the efforts of her colleagues.
We work together as a team, she said. Its no one person. Dennis is a good leader, and we all work together as a team. You could do the same interview for anybody on the staff. With the enjoyment and love they have for the community, theyre all working towards something they appreciated when they were there.
Although this is Kahles first season on the varsity staff, she has been involved at North Marion for several years.
After completing her undergraduate coursework at Portland State in 2009, she stayed on as a graduate student there for two years to earn her masters degree.
In the spring of 2011, she parlayed her teaching license into a long-term substitute teaching gig at North Marion Middle School.
The following school year, Kahle was hired as a half-time English teacher in the district and also joined the high schools girls basketball program as a coach in the junior-varsity ranks.
Now, in her first season as a varsity assistant, she is focused on developing the skills of the Huskies forwards and post players.
The coaching roles have allowed Kahle to stay involved in the sport she loves.
Through working at various camps and clinics, I discovered that I really like player development, she said. Its just been always there. Its a way to stay in touch with the game and still have that team feel without being on the team. Youre still experiencing it.
On the team at Portland State, Kahle was nothing short of outstanding. She became the programs all-time leader in points (2,049) and rebounds (879), was named the Big Sky Conference freshman of the year and was honored as the leagues defensive player of the year as a senior. She earned academic all-conference recognition four times.
Kahle didnt think she was good enough to compete in the WNBA, although she briefly considered playing overseas.
But I was ready for another chapter, she said. I didnt see myself committing to that. I was happy with the way things ended at Portland State. Looking back now, it mightve been fun to do, but I think I made the right decision.
Asked about her future coaching aspirations, Kahle was noncommittal.
Im taking it one year, one month, one day at a time, she said.
Meanwhile, Kahle has shown a steadfast commitment to the current members of North Marions girls basketball team. She coaches with an appreciation for her past and a hope for the programs future.
Its not to make sure they had the exact same experience its different for everybody, she said. We want them to have a positive experience, enjoy it, enjoy each other and learn. The goal is to give them a positive experience and one they can be proud of and one thats good enough where they want to pay it back as well.
THE KELSEY KAHLE FILE
AT NORTH MARION
-- Graduated with girls basketball program records in career points, single-season points and single-game points as well as in career rebounds and single-game rebounds
-- Started in 102 consecutive games, leading North Marion to an 83-19 record during that span
-- Garnered all-state honors twice and received first-team all-league recognition four times in basketball
-- Won three state titles in track and field, two in the high jump (2004 and 2005) and one in the triple jump (2004)
-- Earned first-team all-league honors in girls soccer three times
-- Was the schools valedictorian and senior class president (2004-05)
AT PORTLAND STATE
-- Named Big Sky Conference co-outstanding freshman of the year (2005-06)
-- Received first-team all-league honors three times (2005-06, 2006-07, 2008-09)
-- Tabbed the conference defensive player of the year (2008-09)
-- Was a third-team academic All-America selection (2008-09)
-- Graduated with 11 career PSU records (points, rebounds, field goals made, field goals attempted, free throws made, free throws attempted, games played, games started, 10-point scoring games, 20-point scoring games and 30-point scoring games)
-- Broke the PSU scoring record against Northern Colorado (Jan. 17, 2009)
-- Set conference records in free throws made and free throws attempted
-- Is one of only eight players in PSU history to record at least 1,000 career points and 500 career rebounds
-- Was named the conference player of the week 11 times
-- Scored a league-record 41 points against Sacramento State (Jan. 25, 2007)
-- Finished her career ranked third all-time in the Big Sky Conference in points; also fourth in steals, tied for fourth in games played, fifth in field goals made and field goals attempted and seventh in rebounds