RHAM High School senior Ailish Kleinhen will continue to live out her hardwood dreams in New York.
“And the journey begins,” Kleinhen posted to Instagram on May 1. “I am excited to announce my commitment to further my education and athletic career at Hartwick College! I am beyond excited for the next 4! A huge thank you to my family, friends, coaches and teammates. I couldn’t get here without all of you. Go Hawks!”
Kleinhen was the ideal teammate, captain, and closer for a Raptors basketball team that finished the regular season with 14 wins this past winter.
“Ailish had a great senior year and impacted our team in so many ways more than just on the court,” RHAM girls’ basketball head coach John McNair said. “She would go and pick a teammate up if they fell, and she would be there to offer words of encouragement and support after a tough game or practice. Her selflessness is one of the things I respected most about her as a teammate and it’s really something you can’t coach.”
McNair added that Kleinhen did a little of everything on the floor, including being a relentless defender who did not back down from any challenge.
That mentality will suit her well at the next level where she will join her new basketball fraternity as she pursues her degree in physical therapy.
Kleinhen said it was important for her to choose a school that offered her major, adding, “The coaches are awesome and I love everything about it. It’s more than just basketball and that is what I need.”
Over the years, Kleinhen has learned a thing or two about physical therapy. She used PT to recover from a broken elbow suffered while playing basketball in the eighth grade, along with mending ankle, knee, and various other injuries throughout her time playing sports.
“You name it, I’ve pretty much gone for everything,” said a smiling Kleinhen.
After dabbling in cross-county running her first years in high school, Kleinhen realized that the team aspect of basketball was her true passion.
She is currently on the school’s ultimate frisbee team, calling the club sport “super fun”.
Kleinhen, who was born in Glastonbury before moving to Marlborough in kindergarten, said she will miss her teammates that she played with at RHAM, particularly the basketball team from this past winter.
“This was definitely my favorite group of girls that we’ve had,” said Kleinhen, who embraced a mentorship role for a talented freshmen class headed by first-year standout Maddy Evans.
She recalled one of her favorite moments was during Evans’ first start. Kleinhen was forced to miss the game because of a concussion, so she helped coach the Evans from the sideline, drawing up plays and offering advice from the bench.
Kleinhen added it was “really cool” to see the growth of the younger girls this winter.
Coach McNair praised Kleinhen for her “incredible selflessness” in accepting the role as the first player off the bench, saying, “While she might not have started a game, she was always in at the end of close ones, and to me that’s the most important time to be on the floor.”
McNair noted a game against Bacon Academy when Kleinhen ignited the team off the bench, sinking five three-pointers and scoring 20 points as the Raptors beat the rival Bobcats, who would eventually go on to play for a state championship at Mohegan Sun
“As a coach, you want everything to work out the way it should, and you want kids to be rewarded for all the work and sacrifices they make. That night, Ailish shined in the moment and confirmed for me that she deserved the opportunity to play at the next level,” said McNair.
“I have no doubt she will succeed at Hartwick. She has the right approach to adversity and manages to keep it all in perspective,” added McNair.
At Hartwick, she will join a Division III program based in Oneonte, NY that plays in the Empire 8 Athletic Conference. The Hawks are coming off an 18-win season in the first year under head coach Sarah Lombard.
“I’ve played on a lot of different teams with a lot of different people and the teammates that I’ve had have been so motivating,” said Kleinhen. “I’m beyond excited to go through the next four years with a new group.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin