Kemph, Vliet to pair up at St. Louis
Jackie Kemph and Jenny Vliet can put a little twist on the title of the award-winning 1940s movie Meet Me In St. Louis.
The Rolling Meadows girls basketball stars can tell their fans, "Meet us in St. Louis."
Kemph and Vliet, who have played on the same teams since the second grade, will add four more years together in college.
They have committed to play for coach Lisa Stone's Division I Saint Louis University program.
Stone, who has amassed a 515-256 record in 27 years as a college head coach at Wisconsin, Cornell (Iowa), Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Drake and Saint Louis where she is now in her second season.
Kemph, the 2012-13 Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year and Vliet, one of the most versatile players in the state, helped lead the Mustangs to a second-place finish in the Class AA state finals last March.
Meadows will return three D-I players and one D-II player this winter.
In addition to seniors Kemph and Vliet, senior guard Alexis Glasgow committed to Northwestern early in her junior season. Also, senior Ashley Montanez recently committed to D-II University of Indianapolis.
Kemph and Vliet spent their playing days prior to high school on the same teams, which were coached by their fathers (Matt Vliet and his assistant, Rich Kemph).
"There were dreams that they could one day play Division I basketball," Matt said. "But you never know for sure if they will get there. There are too many distractions for young kids today."
But longtime friends Jackie and Jenny kept their focus while also starring the in classroom. They are A honor students and members of the National Honor Society.
"I think it's unbelievable," Matt Vliet said of the two heading to the same school. "I think you would be hard-pressed to find teammates who will have played together for 14 years through college, and I think it's incredible and we're really excited they're both going to St. Louis.
Jackie and Jen were also classmates at Westgate Elementary and South Middle School and played together on park district, Arlington Heights Youth Basketball and Meadows feeder program teams.
"Of course we didn't know this would happen back then," Matt Vliet said. "They both had a lot of ability but you never really think of D-I basketball when they are so small.
"Our teams were always up-tempo because we had so many kids. Our main goal was to bring the Meadows High School program back to respectability. We wanted the program to have some success so our girls could find out what it's like to have a really good program. Our teams would win 79 or 80 games a year, and would lose maybe only one or two. They won 99 percent of their games."
Vliet and Kemph even play for the same AAU team (Illinois Elite directed by Tom Hohenadel). Now they hope to win another bunch of games this winter under Meadows second-year coach Ryan Kirkorsky before trying to do the same in St. Louis.
"Jackie and Jenny are so deserving of the opportunity to continue to play basketball at the Division I level," Kirkorsky said. "At times, they make things look easy on the basketball court but they sacrifice so much to excel as much as they do. They (along with their teammates) have done so much for our school and community, and I expect them to do the same for Saint Louis University."
Vliet made two unofficial visits to the campus and took along Kemph the second time early this summer.
"Both of them felt extremely comfortable with Saint Louis," Kirkorsky added. "They felt it was the perfect combination of location coupled with an esteemed academic institution. They seemed to connect immediately with the coaching staff and are excited about the future of the basketball program. I know it's a relief for the kids and their families to conclude the recruiting process, and now they can focus on what they love doing most -- playing basketball."
Kemph, a two-time Mid-Suburban League Player of the Year and Illinois Basketball Coaches Association first team all-stater, was electrifying to watch with her uncanny drives to the basket which helped lead to a team-high 640 points as a junior.
The 5-foot-6 point guard averaged 19.6 points and 7.4 assists per game with her outstanding awareness on the floor. Kemph's blazing speed allowed her to finish many fast breaks and create relentless pressure at the front of the Mustangs' defense.
"What separates Jackie from any boy or girl I've seen is her body control," Kirkorsky said after the season. "And her ability to finish. Jackie has the ability to control a game in so many different ways -- scoring, attacking and setting up teammates and with her ball pressure at the top of our defense."
Vliet averaged 10 points this season while grabbing a team-high 283 rebounds along with 55 assists. Despite standing 6-foot-2, not only can she hurt opponents inside but from long range, too. She connected on 47 3-pointers.
"Jenny is a coach's dream," Kirkorsky said. "She was the glue to our team. She can do everything on the floor. She's our best defensive player, our best rebounder and one of the best shooters in the state. And what sets her apart is that her only goal is to win."
Vliet, who has an uncle who is a lawyer, said she plans to study pre-law at Saint Louis.
"I'd like to stay in the sports field" she said. "Maybe a sports agent."
Kemph is deciding between the medical field or engineering. Her sister, Allie, also a key member of the Mustangs basketball team, is also considering Saint Louis.
"I hope she comes," Jackie said of her sister and doubles partner in tennis.
Vliet said she and Jackie would think about what it would be like playing together in college but never thought it would happen.
"But now that it has, it's awesome," said Vliet, also a standout volleyball player for coach Joe Di Silvio's varsity. "When we started getting recruited we talked about it because we've always been on the same team. We always had the idea in our mind but we didn't want to do it just for the sake of doing it. We wanted to make sure it was the right school for both of us.
"When I took Jackie on my second visit, she loved it. We both loved the facilities and campus."
Both girls agreed that the proximity of the school was a big factor.
"Early on, I was looking to go out west," Vliet said. "But I thought it would be so hard not having the people who have been watching us for our whole careers not to be able to go to the games."
Kemph never thought about playing college basketball on the same team with Vliet.
"Growing up we always talked about how awesome playing on the same high school team would be," Jackie said. "I really loved playing with Jen in high school so I'm happy it worked out this way. We know each other and how we play, so it's awesome. I couldn't be happier.
"And the school was beautiful, I fell in love with it. I think it's a great fit."
For now, she is ready to fit in again with her Meadows teammates hoping for a big finish to her high school career.
"I'm definitely glad I am finished with the whole process," Kemph said. "There was a lot of stuff to do and now there is a lot less stress.
"This has always been a dream of mine. To have it done and know for sure I'm playing is awesome and a great feeling."