Ramsey's Long Road to Vanderbilt
By Kelly Schmandt
(Editor's Note: Author Kelly Schmandt is a junior at Vanderbilt and a two-year
letter winner on its nationally ranked tennis team.)
After a long game of phone tag and busy schedules, I finally met up with Abi
Ramsey in the study lounge of Lewis Hall. "I'm glad we finally got to meet.
My high school was playing in Nashville and I really wanted to go," she
said as we sat down to begin the interview.
With such a busy schedule- balancing SEC basketball and Vanderbilt academics-
I was a little surprised to find that Abi had time to go see a high school basketball
game. I quickly learned that Abi Ramsey is not only a tough basketball player,
but also a humble person who has not forgotten those who have helped her along
On the athletic side of things, Abi has recently broken into the starting
lineup for the women's basketball team. This is a rare feat for a sophomore
to accomplish at an SEC school, but the achievement did not come easily.
"This is the first time I really had to work for something...and I mean
really work," Abi stated emphatically.
It took awhile for Abi to adjust to the new coaching staff headed by Melanie
Balcomb and then to maintain the confidence and consistency needed to obtain
a spot in the top five. While this forward is primarily known for her shooting
abilities, it has been her defense that has improved and has provided the major
boost to her game.
"Abi has worked hard to improve her game and it definitely shows,"
Coach Melanie Balcomb says. "She has played a key role for us so far. As
she continues to gain experience and confidence, we think she's going to develop
into one of the better players in this conference."
"It's been a long and hard process, this semester has been a learning
experience and has been a real struggle," recalled Abi, "I always
knew that starting could have been an option this year."
This "process" she harkens to began long before her college career,
and while the adjustments to a new coaching staff and academics have undoubtedly
provided a valuable "learning experience," Abi claims that moving
high schools most shaped the player she is today.
Abi attended a small high school in her hometown her freshman year and helped
take the school to its first state title, but Abi knew the highlights of small-town
glory were not going to offer the kinds of opportunities she wanted after high
Abi wanted to play college ball, and in the SEC. This, she claimed, would be
difficult to accomplish at her high school, so instead she opted to transfer
to Shelbyville High School, a school with a nationally renown basketball program,
one she was sure could help accomplish her goal.
"There was a possibility that I could still get a scholarship if I stayed,
but it was difficult knowing that there was one of the top programs in the country
just an hour away. And I was guaranteed a scholarship if I went to Shelbyville."
But Abi couldn't have ever anticipated the consequences of the transfer. A
tremendous backlash that extended to friend and family built up against her
in her hometown, and along with being the new girl in an established program,
the adjustment proved to be a valuable life lesson.
"At a young age it woke me up to the way people really are and how the
world is. I'd never think that family members would turn their back... over
basketball!" she exclaimed.
Basketball is just a game and Abi knows that, but she also understood where
her amazing talent could take her. Abi credits her father, Tim Ramsey, for helping
her in her decision to attend Shelbyville.
She is also grateful to her high school coach, Rick Insell, who helped her
get the scholarship to an SEC school and developed her game. When Abi is in
attendance of a Shelbyville high school basketball game, she is more than a
fan, but loyal and grateful former apprentice to a program that served her so
But the learning process continues. Now in college, Abi has made the starting
lineup for one of the top college basketball teams in the country. Still, she
is not satisfied. Her goals for the year extend beyond herself and athletics.
She feels that with hard work and determination a national championship is in
Vanderbilt's reach. "I don't say it like it is going to be easy, but we
definitely have a shot." She also hopes to improve her GPA and hopes that
her success on the court will spill over into the classroom.
While Abi is not unlike many college student athletes, her determination and
loyalty set her apart, and she is not without her quirks. Abi has a superstition
to clip her fingernails if she is not playing well. Next time you catch a Vanderbilt
Women's Basketball game check her fingers- with all of her recent success Abi's
nails should be as long as Gail Devers'!