By Steve Svetovich
Dreams come true. This is the case for former Dunmore basketball standout Kayleigh Semion.
Daughter of Sherry Nicolais and step daughter of Mark Nicolais, Kayleigh passed up opportunities to play Division I and II college basketball because she wanted to attend Penn State. It was her dream school.
Not only did she achieve that, but she dreamed even bigger. As a junior, she tried out for the varsity girls’ basketball team and made it. And after three years on the team, she was named Penn State’s recipient of the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, a prestigious honor for team play.
Kayleigh, 23, has proven the value of hard work and dedication throughout her years at Penn State. And no one works harder. During her high school years, she was often seen practicing her shot over and over and over at the Greater Scranton YMCA.
She began her college career as a club basketball player and team manager before earning a roster spot during the 2017-18 season.
A consummate teammate, she made a huge impact on and off the court for the Lady Lions. Kayleigh was a crucial spark off the bench and always gave her all, the only way she knows.
A genuine scholar-athlete, she is a two-time Academia All-Big Ten selection and will receive her master’s degree this May in Business Management and Organizational Leadership.
Kayleigh was Times-Tribune player of the year in 2015, her senior year with the Dunmore Lady Bucks basketball team.
“I am very honored to receive the Sportsmanship Award,” she said. “It is really humbling. I look at it as a team award. It is awesome, a great ending to my basketball career.”
Named second team All-State after her senior year at Dunmore, the point guard said she wants to secure a management position in the sports industry upon graduation.
Kayleigh was a key member of Penn State’s club basketball team that placed third in the National Intramural Recreational Sports Association Championship Tournament in her sophomore year.
Her team beat Virginia Tech, Ohio University and the University of Connecticut before losing to Air Force at Ohio State. Kayleigh scored 13 points off the bench in the loss.
The former Dunmore standout served as team manager for the Penn State varsity girls’ team for two years.
But in November of her junior year she was invited to tryout for the Penn State varsity team. She worked extremely hard during the two-week tryout and made the team.
For Kayleigh, it was another hard earned dream come true story.
“It was one of the best feelings in my life ever,” she said. “When I was told I made it, it was just awesome. My hard work paid off. I put so much into it.
“I had an extra year of eligibility while going for my master’s degree, so I played three years of Division I basketball at Penn State. My playing time increased during my final two years. I was getting good minutes.
“Putting that Penn State jersey on was so meaningful to me. Playing in those Big 10 tournaments and facilities was unreal. Playing Division I college basketball at Penn State was so special to me.
“I can now say I played Division I college basketball at Penn State.”
Kayleigh played two years under Coquese Washington and one year under Carolyn Kieger at Penn State.
Kayleigh, All Regional as a high school senior, said she learned a lot from Dunmore basketball coach Ben O’Brien. “He taught me about a strong work ethic. He taught me a lot at Dunmore.”
Her mom, a prominent twirling instructor in Dunmore, and two sisters, Brittany and Meredith, are her role models and mentors. “I learned so much from them my entire life. They gave me my mind set and work ethic and I follow in their footsteps.”
An Ed Sheerin fan, Kayleigh had a 3.8 GPA with a B.S. in Kinesiology before starting graduate studies at Penn State.
She scored over 1,200 career points at Dunmore.