READING, Ohio – According to her high school coach, KK Bransford has the knack of doing what it takes to win. It might mean knocking down a shot, dishing an assist, grabbing a key rebound, diving for a loose ball or guarding the other team’s best player.
Bransford did all of those things in Mount Notre Dame’s most recent visit to the Ohio Division I state championship. That’s why MND drove home from the University of Dayton Arena with their eighth state basketball title.
That’s why Bransford, who scored eight of her 21 points in MND’s victory in the second overtime against Newark, is Ohio’s Ms. Basketball.
“She makes so many people around her better, not just on the court, but off the court,” MND coach Dr. Scott Rogers said. “Her basketball IQ is so high. She understands that if you want the big prize, you have to sacrifice some scoring. All that’s done is cause her game to evolve. She had 10 assists in the state final.”
Bransford has now played in an incredible 72 consecutive winning basketball games for the Cougars and has been part of two state championships. Had it not been for the coronavirus pandemic cancellation of the 2020 state tournament, it may have been three state titles as MND was also 28-0 a year ago.
“I’m super happy, super blessed, super surprised,” Bransford said of the honor. “I always say Ohio has the best talent in girls basketball in the country. To be considered Ms. Basketball is amazing to me.”
For better perspective, the 5-foot-10 all-purpose player is 87-2 in her varsity career which will include one more season as the most sought-after player in the state.
Bransford’s college suitors include the elite-level programs you would imagine chasing a Ms. Basketball Her choices are down to a dozen “blue-bloods”: Maryland, Connecticut, UCLA, Louisville, Notre Dame, Michigan, Arizona, Tennessee, Baylor, Texas, Duke and North Carolina.
KK, whose real name is Calyn, became KK when she was small and her brother couldn’t pronounce her name. Calyn came out KK and it stuck. Now, anyone connected with women’s college basketball recruiting is familiar with KK Bransford.
Though she still isn’t in a hurry to commit to a college, she’s currently enjoying the NCAA Women’s Tournament featuring many of the schools on her list.
“It’s so competitive!” Bransford said. “You don’t know who is going to win. I feel like the girls’ game is really evolving. I’m just very grateful to all the schools that have taken time to recruit me.”
As demonstrated throughout her career, Bransford can jump center, run the point, post up, deliver a dime and bury a three. This past season she led the Girls Greater Catholic League in scoring (21.4), assists (5.1), field goal percentage (51.5) and steals (3 per game). She was third in the league in rebounding, pulling down 6.4.
“KK can play any position she wants,” Rogers said. “We’ve had her at the one, at shooting guard, playing the five. She can match-up with pretty much anybody.”
In the state tournament, she nearly delivered back-to-back triple-doubles. In the semifinal against Toledo Notre Dame Academy she had 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. She followed that up with 21 points 10 assists and eight boards against Newark in the championship game.
Her high game this year was 31, but as a sophomore, she once scored 40 against Gahanna Lincoln. As a freshman, she made her debut with 29 points against Columbus Africentric. Neither of those programs would be considered a slouch.
To make her accolades even more notable, Bransford has played three seasons alongside Laila Phelia, a Michigan signee and McDonald’s All-American nominee. Together, they shared the ball and shared the wealth of 72 straight wins and a pair of championships.
“She’s so deserving of that award (Ms. Basketball) because she’s not just about personal statistics, she’s about team statistics,” Rogers said.
In 2020 Bransford had Makira Cook of the University of Dayton with her and 2019 she played with Gabbie Marshall of the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Bransford becomes the first Greater Cincinnati recipient of Ms. Basketball since 2014 when Kelsey Mitchell (Princeton, Ohio State, WNBA) was chosen. She’s the third Mount Notre Dame winner joining 2009’s Kendall Hackney (Northwestern) and 2004’s Mel Thomas (Connecticut).
Rogers compares Bransford’s basketball intellect with Thomas who played for Geno Auriemma at Connecticut. Thomas reached out to MND’s state championship team via video from Florida prior to the Cougars’ title run in Dayton.
Other Cincinnati winners have been Amber Gray (Lakota West, Tennessee, Xavier, WNBA) in 2008, Michelle Munoz (Mason, Tennessee, Ohio State) in 2000 and 2001, Carol Madsen (Reading,Xavier) in 1989 and Janet Haneburg (Seton) in 1988.
Five other girls have won Ms. Basketball twice or more. Just a junior, Bransford will be back with Dr. Rogers for one more run at Mount Notre Dame with a shot at joining that elite club.
Scott Springer is a sports reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer and provided this story on behalf of the OPSWA.