Thursday, August 15, 2013

Strictly Division III: One sport isn't enough for Ferrum's Kylene Culler

We call Kylene Culler the Becca Wann of Division III. LadySwish regulars know that Wann is that rare Division I kid who plays two sports (soccer and basketball for Richmond), excelling at both. Culler is also accomplished in a pair of sports (basketball and softball); the rising junior became the first Ferrum female athlete to qualify for the NCAA Tournament in two sports when she did so her freshman  year (last season the Panther basketball team advanced to the NCAA Tournament; softball lost in the USA South Conference championship game).

We caught up with Kylene during that rare moment when she wasn't on the field or the hardwood. Here's what she had to say:

On playing two sports in college ...

I was thinking about giving up softball because I like basketball better, but I had trouble trying to decide. I was going to go to Ferrum to play basketball, but the coach talked to me because my sister (Kaitlyn, USA South Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2013) actually played there (she was a junior when Kylene was a freshman). The softball coach said she'd work with my schedule and the basketball coach agreed. One of my deciding factors for Ferrum was that I got to play both of them.

I grew up in a small town (Stuart, about 45 minutes away), and the small town feel is what I'm used to and what I know. I love having people know me. I love the feel, and the atmosphere is great. We have great support for athletics, and the academics is good, too.

But doesn't it ever get hectic?

They overlap a lot. I go into Ferrum playing softball -- we have a fall tournament. I go in practicing softball and try to condition with basketball as much as I can, but I mostly focus on softball for the first month. After the tournament, I go right into basketball. I usually miss about the first 10 games of softball because of basketball because we've been to the tournament both times.

I'm used to it. I played three sports in high school (volleyball was the other). I did a dual enrollment program and actually got my associate degree while I was in high school. I love being busy and having something to do all the time. I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I had to come home after school. It does get hectic with schoolwork. I pull a lot of late nighters.

Will you graduate early?

If I would have went in knowing what I want to major in, I probably could have graduated this year, but I didn't know what I wanted to do. I'm doing health and human performance, which is going to lead into occupational therapy. I wanted to help people and went in thinking social work. But there were so many negatives. It wasn't for me.

I want to be able to work with kids. I'm a big kid myself, so it fits.

You were always an athlete?

I started basketball in kindergarten. I started softball at 9. They're totally different games. One is more fast paced; that's the reason I probably like basketball more because of the pace. But I like softball, too.

On the grind of D-III ...

Even though we're not together over the summer, we work individually and it shows when we get back together. A lot of girls spend extra time -- we work after practice. A lot of us stay and shoot after practice or run plays after practice.

On the travel and those lengthy bus rides ...

We do a lot of driving. There are a lot of long bus rides. For basketball, we had these movies that we watched over and over again, and we loved them. We'd sit and watch them together, and we'd be quoting them word for word. The "Pitch Perfect" movie that came out this past year; we all knew the songs and we would sing them all the time. We have some really long bus rides, and it was just ridiculous to have to sit on a bus for nine hours. We went to a tournament in Huntington, Ala. We have some five-hour ones, too. We have three teams from Georgia now in our conference.

But school always comes first ....

Kylene and her graduated sis Kaitlyn
There's no exception for missing class. Our coaches tell us when we get off the bus at 2 o'clock in the morning, 'We expect you in class at 8 a.m.' And we usually try to get the early classes so we won't miss them in the afternoon when we leave.

During softball season when it comes time time for exams, we're going into the conference tournament.
It's really hard to get your exams in. A lot of us had to take our exams on the road. For basketball for midterm, we had to take exams on the road, and our coach would have to come in and watch us. I remember I had to take four exams on the road, and it was really hard because I had to sit up in the hotel room while everybody is eating pizza or something.

On fan support ...

I would love for people to recognize D-III. Some people think D-III is the very bottom, but most of the schools we play against in Virginia -- they're probably D-II players who play D-III because there's not a D-II school around here. We have some really talented athletes in our conference. We get respect from the people who care. We have fans who travel with us. Most of them are parents, but some of the men's basketball teams and the other teams at the school support us at home games. We usually have a packed gym at a women's basketball game. That means a lot to have our school behind us.

Looking ahead

For basketball we're going to be really strong. We have a chance to go further than we did last year. We definitely have a bright future. For softball, too. We lost a few of our starters in both sports, but some of the freshmen and recruits we have coming in have big shoes to fill, but they have a lot of potential and I think we will do great.

If you had time for a third sport in college, what would it be?

My roommate who graduated this year, she picked up lacrosse her last year at Ferrum. I played a little bit with her and I thought that was a really interesting sport. It has a lot of running in it and seems fun to do.

Are you a Division III basketball player with a good story? Email us the details at lady

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