BELLEVILLE — During a splendid three-year varsity basketball career at Belleville East, Amanda Kemezys was known as a leader who had the ability to take over a game at any time.
Now, nine years removed from scoring her final point as a Lancer, Kemezys will be leading the Lancers again.
The 2005 graduate of Belleville East has been named the Lancers' new girls basketball coach. The 26-year-old Kemezys takes over for Andrea Seipp, who resigned at the end of the 2013-14 season.
"I'm very grateful for this opportunity and very excited to be named as the head coach at my alma mater. It's almost like a dream come true,'' Kemezys said. "I've been a volunteer assistant here (East) for the last two years and this year I coached seventh- grade boys and eighth-grade girls at Wolf Branch Middle School in Swansea, And that was a great experience.
"Even though this will be a heavier workload it all might even out. I'll be coaching one team now instead of two or three. Hopefully we'll get a nice little pipeline from Wolf Branch players continuing to come to Belleville East. I know there are two to four players who played for me this year at Wolf Branch who plan on trying out here (East) next year.''
Kemezys basketball background over the past decade is second to none. A three-year starter at East, Kemezys was a special mention all-state selection as a senior.
The 6-foot-4 Kemezys then attended St. Louis University, where she became one the Billikens' all-time great players. A third-team Atlantic 10 Conference player as a junior and a second team selection as a senior, Kemezys ranks among SLU's career top 10 in points (1,244), rebounds (819) and field goal percentage (50.4).
A 2010 graduate of SLU, Kemezys then played two years of professional basketball in Lithuania before returning to the United States.
"It was a great experience playing against so many great players. I got to play against a lot of WNBA players who play in Europe in the offseason. My parents came over and saw me play and my dad got to meet some of his relatives. That was one of the coolest experiences of my life.''
Now Kemezys is hoping for another cool experience coaching the Lancers. Known in recent years for their athleticism, fast-paced offense and nonstop pressure defense, the Lancers under Kemezys will keep many of the same principles.
"Of course, you adjust according to your personnel, but I like playing the up-tempo style of game on offense, and while we'll play a lot of man-to-man defense, I also believe in switching things up,'' Kemezys said. "Being a student-athlete is a must with me, and like always we'll stress excellence in the classroom first, hard work and discipline.''
Although several key players graduated this year, Kemezys said there are a number of talented players returning next season. Edwardsville remains the team to beat in the Southwestern Conference.
"They (Edwardsville) were very good when I was playing at East and I have nothing but respect for their coaching staff and what they've been able to accomplish,'' Kemezys said. "The Southwestern Conference is very strong and every night is going to be a battle.
"I'm not one to put numbers in goals for wins and losses. I believe that if we come to practice, work hard and continue to get a little better each day, that success will follow.''
Kemezys hopes to put her two years as an assistant under Seipp into continuing the Lancers' tradition.
"Coach (Andrea) Seipp is a great person who I learned a lot from the past two years and she's already offered several times to help me in any way she can.
"As a player, there were high expectations here and I took a lot pride in wearing the Belleville East uniform. There is a lot of tradition in girls basketball here. I hope to continue that tradition.''