Healthy at last: Central’s Kendra Wilken looking to lead Cougars once again

Ranked as one of the top high school basketball players in the state and already signed to attend Saint Louis University where she will play for the Billikens, Kendra Wilken’s future looked secure when her senior year at Central began in August.

And despite a few bumps in the road along the way, that future is still a bright one.

Competing as a member of the Cougars volleyball team, Wilken and Central basketball fans throughout Clinton County, went through a few anxious days earlier this fall when the 6-foot-2 senior suffered a severely sprained ankle in a match against Cahokia Conference rival Columbia.

Thankfully, nothing was broken.

“I went up to make a block and came down on the foot of one of our own players. I went down and there was a lot of pain right away,” Wilken said. “I was freaking out because they didn’t know if anything was broke and of course, the thought of my (college) scholarship went through my mind. I was pretty sure (Saint Louis) coach (Lisa) Stone would stand behind me, but you can’t be sure.”

Thankfully for the future of Wilken, Central and Saint Louis University, Wilken’s ankle has healed and she and the rest of the Cougars are ready to open their season on Saturday when they face both Chatham-Glenwood and Belleville West in the opening rounds of the O’Fallon Thanksgiving Tournament.

Expected to be ranked in the top 5 when the Class 2A preseason poll is released, the Cougars will be without senior guard Alicia Book until at least late Janaury. The 5-7 Book suffered a broken bone in her left ankle during a practice on Veterans Day and will soon have surgery.

“It’s a big loss for our team and I feel really bad for Alicia. She had worked hard and was looking forward to a big senior year,” Wilken said. “We’re hoping that that her rehab goes well. She’s hoping to get back in January or February. But whenever she does, it will be a huge boost for this basketball team.

“We’re hoping that some of the sophomores can step up. Faye (Meissner) was like our sixth or seventh player last year and she’s looked good and we’ve got some others we think will be able to help out.”

Wilken was one of the top five Class 2A players in the state last year when she averaged 19.9 points and 12 rebounds per game. Healthy, the Cougars top player will need to put up similar numbers this season if the Cougars are to be one of the elite.

“The ankle is good. I’’ve got the ankle braces off and we’re ready to go,” Wilken said.

Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean