GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — When Abbey Kimball was younger and dreaming about playing basketball at higher levels, it just seemed so far away.
The West Catholic standout guard watched college and professional basketball growing up, hoping that someday she could excel to those levels.
While Kimball could feel herself growing as a player, there was always the wonder of when she would get noticed by Division I colleges.
After leading the Falcons to a 23-1 record, an O-K Blue Championship and the schools first district title in 25 years, those visions she had started to become realistic.
Multiple Division I offers began pouring in over the course of the 2019-20 season, including offers from Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Northwestern and others.
The one that stood out from all of them was Michigan State: The school Kimball has been following since those days when this all felt so far away.
“It felt like home,” Kimball said of the Spartans culture. “Every time I went there, it’s where I felt like I wanted to go. I grew up loving Michigan State. It’s not too far or close from home.
“It’s perfect and still feels surreal now that it’s here.”
Yet, this is the reality Kimball now has.
With still two years remaining in high school, Kimball is certain she wants to continue wearing the colors of green and white into her college playing days, like she does now as a Falcon.
“I like having these decisions made and I knew this is where I wanted to go,” Kimball said. “It gives me that sense of comfort and I’m excited for the future knowing that’s where I wanted to go in the field.”
Her numbers speak for themselves. Playing at the varsity level since being a freshman, Kimball took her play to a new level in 2019-20. The 5-foot-10 guard averaged 20.6 points per game while shooting 42 percent from the floor. Additionally, Kimball shot an outstanding 93% from the free throw line.
As a result, Kimball was selected to the Michigan Associated Press All-State First Team and the Grand Rapids Dream Team First Team. The Falcons marched into the regional finals before the season was cut short due to the coronavirus.
It wasn’t easy to take for Kimball or the Falcons, especially due to the history they could have made for the program by advancing to heights unreached in decades.
“This team was special,” Kimball said. “Before the season, we would be up at five in the morning practicing together during volleyball season and in the summer being together to shoot, even without a coach organizing everything. It wasn’t the way we wanted to end it.”
While the ending is tough to take this season for the Falcons, Kimball said she knows this team can regroup with the program the Falcons have begun building back up.
As for becoming a Spartan, those same traits of having a strong program mattered to Kimball when she made her verbal commitment to MSU on April 17. Players Taryn McCutcheon and Moira Joiner were role models for Kimball by their in-game efforts of never stopping until a play is over. MSU head coach Suzy Merchant also played a key role.
“We had a really good talk when she offered me and provided a sense of comfort,” Kimball said. “I know I can put my trust in her, my coach in high school (Jill Vanderende) is very close with her. I just get that gut feeling that this is where I want to go.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, like all athletes, Kimball has been kept off the gym floor more than she would like to be. The weather at times has made it even harder to go outside and get some shots up, but she has been doing so when able.
It’s a waiting game for basketball to return. However, this isn’t something that worries Kimball.
After all, it took years for the Spartan commit to reach the moment she envisioned as a child. Giving in isn’t in her vocabulary but patience is.
“There were days I didn’t think I could ever make it this far, but now it’s here,” Kimball said. “You can achieve your dreams if you put your mind to it because your work will get noticed.”