Basketball has always been Kelly Naughton's favorite sport.
And then some.
"More than that, it's been my passion," said the 5-foot-6 Elk Grove senior guard.
Naughton's dedication to the sport has paid off quite handsomely as she will move on to play at the Division I level.
In early October, she made a verbal commitment to play for Jacksonville State in Alabama.
"I remember in junior high when a teacher asked us what we wanted to be when we were older and I wrote 'WNBA player,' " Naughton said. "This may not be the WNBA, but it is a huge goal that I have accomplished. D-I basketball, especially at Jacksonville State. It's exactly where I want to be."
She got there by showing her skills for the Grenadiers, whether it be with her scoring ability (five double-figure games as a junior, including a season-high 21 against Glenbrook North), passing skills or defensive prowess.
Naughton is just as skilled in the classroom, where she has been an A-honor roll student since freshman year.
"I am really excited to receive an education from Jacksonville State because it is a great school and that is very important to me," said Naughton, who is also a member of the National Honor Society. "School and basketball have always been my best accomplishments. I plan on keeping that up at Jacksonville State, too."
Naughton officially visited the campus on Sept. 22 and 23.
"I had an awesome time," she said. "The coaches and players were incredibly nice and they showed me a really good time. I love the south and when I went there it made me love it even more."
Just three weeks later, Naughton committed, on Oct. 6.
"When I was there, everyone made me feel welcome and it just felt like the perfect place for me," Naughton added. "I still have not officially decided what I want to study but my two options as of now are teaching or counseling."
Always active as a young girl, Naughton grew up watching her older brother's basketball games.
"My parents (Clement and Deanna) said I always brought my own little ball and pretended like I was playing, too," said Naughton, also a varsity soccer player in the spring. "Fourth grade was when I really started playing. I started with park district basketball and I loved it from the start."
Naughton then began playing AAU and couldn't stop playing the game.
"My parents are my biggest inspirations," Naughton said. "They have been there for me every step of the way. They come to every game I have and are always cheering me on,"
Clement was Kelly's coach for most of her life.
"He has taught me so much," she said of her father. "Even though he doesn't think I listen to him, I remember everything he has taught me and he is why I love this game so much. I couldn't have done this without my parent's encouragement and all the faith they had in me.
"Also, all my coaches who have believed in my ability throughout the years are the reason I got to this level, especially coach Derril Kipp and coach Reggie Dawson (Illinois Hustle)."
It hasn't taken first-year Grens coach Kathie Swanson long to realize Naughton's love for the sport.
"Kelly is someone with an incredible work ethic," she said. "She has a high basketball IQ and such a passion for the game. She has a great understanding of the game and I think it transfers on the court from both practice and the games."