WHEELERSBURG — Putting a pen to paper is always rewarding for any student-athlete who signs to play a collegiate sport.
But it’s especially rewarding for a person who has worked hard to excel academically and athletically like Wheelersburg’s Abbie Kallner has.
The senior, an All-Ohio honoree in both volleyball and basketball, signed with Shawnee State University, Wednesday. For Kallner, donning the Blue and White is a lifelong dream that she’s held dear to her heart since the outgoing senior was an adolescent.
“It’s such an honor, honestly,” Kallner said. “It’s something that I’ve been looking forward to since I was a little girl. I always joked and said, ‘That’s where I want to play, that’s where I want to play.’ To actually have this happening is very fulfilling and very honorable. It makes me very proud to be part of a successful and very well-respected team.”
For Shawnee State coach Jeff Nickel, Kallner’s ability on the floor and her character and performance in the classroom exemplifies the type of student-athletes that Shawnee State has recruited in the past, and wants to continue to recruit in the future.
“Abbie’s what we look for in an athlete at Shawnee State,” Nickel said. “She’s been an outstanding student, an outstanding athlete, and has led her team to an outstanding season. She’s a young lady that we’ve known for a long time. I’ve known her family for a long time, so it was a really easy transition to get her.”
As a high schooler, Kallner’s success, both from an individual and a team perspective, needs no introduction.
The multi-sport athlete has led the Pirates to regional semifinal trips or better in three of her four upperclassman seasons … including back-to-back regional semifinal trips in volleyball and this past winter’s regional final appearance on the hardwood.
The trust that Allen Perry and Dusty Spradlin had in her as a senior leader, however, is what Kallner appreciated.
“Perry and Spradlin are very different, but very similar in the fact that they want the best for you at all times,” Kallner said. “No matter how they get the best out of you, they always molded to us and how we needed to succeed. The fact that they both always did what was best for the team was very encouraging.”
In her senior year, Kallner played imperative roles for teams that went a combined 49-6 overall, which showcases a penchant for winning that’s rare for even the best student-athletes at Wheelersburg, let alone Scioto County.
That record is one of the many reasons why Nickel envisions Kallner running the show at the point guard position as the Pirate progresses in Shawnee State’s system.
“Although she didn’t play the point guard position in high school, I think she’s going to be very flexible in that regard,” Nickel said. “I think she’s going to be able to play a combo guard and play the one or the two. She’s a great defender who plays with great intensity. She’s got good speed and she’s strong. She’s got a great basketball IQ. We’re really excited about getting her.”
“All of those girls have been super nice and friendly towards me,” Kallner said. “To see very good people and see what he’s been able to make out of them makes me look forward to my potential and what he could possibly do with me. That’s not an eye-opening thing, but it’s certainly something that I’m drawn to, especially with the way that his guards play.”
At Shawnee State, Kallner will get to learn from one of the best point guards to ever play at the school in Bailey Cummins.
A perennial NAIA All-American, Cummins eclipsed the 1,000-point plateau at Shawnee State in less than three full seasons of competition, all while leading the Bears in assists per contest over each of the last three seasons.
She’s simply the latest in a long line of successful guards who contributed to four consecutive Mid-South Conference Tournament and three consecutive Mid-South Conference regular season championships from the 2015 to 2018 campaigns, including a No. 1 overall ranking for the last month of the 2017-18 regular season.
She’ll also get to play alongside two fellow SOC competitors in Waverly’s Laken Smith and Notre Dame’s Hagen Schaefer, who have made their own significant contributions in the lineup themselves.
“It’s very exciting,” Kallner said. “I know Laken and Hagen, and they’re super people. Encouraging is the word for them, but we’re friends, and it speaks for the area how girls basketball is growing. It’s fun to be able to go to the next level and be around people that I know.”
With her signing officially in the books, the high school chapter of one of Wheelersburg’s most successful student-athletes in history has come to a close.
However, the college chapter, if her success at the high school level is any indicator, is just beginning.
“Abbie is going to be a kid that can come in and contribute the first year,” Nickel said. “She’s been around our program quite a bit, and I think she’s going to transition very nicely to what we do. She’ll transition very well to the speed of the game and she’ll be able to guard players defensively, which is usually a big hurdle for freshmen. She’ll adapt really well and excel in those areas as she transitions. I think that once she enhances certain parts of her game and continues to improve, she can have a stellar career at Shawnee State.”
As her future road begins, Abbie Kallner certainly won’t forget the memories she’s made over the past four years.
“There’s nothing like the Wheelersburg community,” Kallner said. “Every sporting event — girls, boys, no matter what it is — you’re always believed in and you always feel the support of our community. Before our regional semifinal game in girls basketball, the first-grade classes had signs saying, ‘Good luck,’ and everything, so it speaks for the whole community and how we weren’t just a girls basketball team, but a part of what everyone represented. Everyone was behind us, everyone believed in us, and looking up in the stands and seeing those people, it’s even more encouraging when you’re playing.”