Tracing the arc of Bambule's game
Montini senior Kaylee Bambule has been playing basketball for as long as she can remember, but it wasn't until six years ago when she ventured out to 3-point land.
"Probably around sixth grade I started shooting more out there and I thought it was a lot of fun," Bambule said. "I've always just loved being in the gym shooting."
Of course, shooting is always fun when you make your shots, and Bambule has done that with incredible efficiency over her four years in high school.
The 5-foot-8 guard is the Broncos' all-time leading 3-point shooter. Despite missing 14 games due to injury, she has made 292 3-point shots, breaking the previous mark of 276 held by Kateri Stone and Lea Kerstein. That ranks 11th on the IHSA's all-time list.
This season has been Bambule's finest. The Ohio recruit is 115 for 292 from beyond the arc and leads Montini in scoring at 13.6 points a game. Her varsity 3-point percentage is 45 percent.
For her efforts Bambule is the Daily Herald's DuPage County All-Area Girls Basketball Team captain.
"When you shoot at a 45 percent career clip, that's amazing," Montini coach Jason Nichols said. "It's outstanding.
"There may be kids that hit more 3s, but she's efficient. Every kid is going to have a bad shooting night. She does not have three or four bad shooting nights in a row."
Bambule, who has 1,242 total points heading into this weekend's Class 4A semifinals, is the best player on arguably the best team in the state. The Broncos (32-1) are two wins away from winning their fifth state championship since 2010. They are 127-11 during Bambule's four years.
But Bambule is as humble as she is accurate when asked about her success this season.
"I just think how our team is set up this year, everyone shares the ball," Bambule said. "That's just how it is. All we've ever done is give each other the ball, so if I'm open I shoot it and it just goes in."
And it will go in from anywhere. Bambule has NBA range and is not afraid to shoot from long distance.
"She can bomb," Nichols said. "At the Christmas tournament against Geneva, they were trying to guard her hard and she popped a 26-footer and hit nothing but net, so she's got big-time distance."
Other teams know this and sometimes face-guard Bambule out near midcourt.
"If you started a game and you spread her out to Roosevelt Road (a half-mile from campus), they would guard her," Nichols said. "You have to, she's that good."
The ironic thing is Bambule, a first-team all-state selection, often goes unrecognized by the uninitiated. She has guard skills in a power forward's body and is seemingly more suited to playing fullback.
"Some kids will walk in the gym and just look the part," Nichols said. "She plays it but she doesn't necessarily look it.
"When college coaches that didn't know her would come into the gym earlier in her career, I'd say, 'That's our best player and leading scorer over there.'
"They're like, 'That kid?' But after the open gym they'd be like, 'Wow.'"
Bambule knows she isn't the most athletic player, but she has made herself great by studying the finer points of the game and listening to her coaches.
"I think it is just being a student of the game, watching film and learning every aspect of the game," Bambule said. "I'm not always the fastest or jump the highest, but I think if you try to break it down in certain ways you can learn how to beat people in different ways.
"I think of guys in the NBA like Paul Pierce. He's not the most athletic guy but he's really smart and he knows how to break it down, so I always think in that type of way."
If that sounds like something a coach would say, it's because Bambule is the daughter of a high school coach and aspires to become a college coach.
Her father, Jeff, coached the boys team at Romeoville for 20 years before stepping down so he could watch Kaylee play in high school. He joined the Montini staff this season as an assistant.
"She's totally a kid who is a product of being a coach's daughter," Nichols said. "You could just tell she knows the game inside and out."
The Broncos have relied on Bambule more than ever in the postseason. She tallied a team-high 15 points the 67-52 win over Young in the sectional final, going 6 for 6 from the free-throw line.
In Monday's supersectional Bambule saved the season when she scored on a driving layup to force overtime. The Broncos went on to defeat Homewood-Flossmoor 39-35 in double overtime and remain unbeaten against Illinois opponents.
Bambule rarely drives to the basket, so her layup was as surprising as it was spectacular. But it was just another example of her ability to do the right thing at the right moment. The plan was for her to shoot a 3, but the Vikings had the arc covered.
Bambule began at Montini by winning a state title. Three years later, she aims to end it the same way. The four-year starter wants that to be her legacy.
"The ultimate goal is just to win another state title," Bambule said. "All the individual stuff is a bonus. It's cool, but our goal as a team is to get it all done."