Elsberry senior Candice Dowell started playing basketball at the age of six, playing on a co-ed team for the YMCA while she was in just first grade. By the time she was in third grade, she was playing competitively — and not with kids her own age.
“I had to handle the ball for a fourth-grade team that needed an extra player and a point guard,” she said.
And so began her journey in basketball, one that has led her to Elsberry, where she has played for years for Coach Kari Koch-Dowell, who she said has helped her to succeed from the start of her high school career.
“As a freshman, Coach K. believed I could compete at the varsity level and pushed me every day to be where I am,” Dowell said. “She gives up all her time to make sure our team has success.”
Kari Koch-Dowell is just one of many who have helped to influence Candice over the years.
“My biggest influence has been my mom, who first started coaching me and she was the first to introduce me to the game. Then Coach Doug Smith (grades 3-6 select basketball coach), who coached my mom in high school, and then picked me up for a competitive travel team,” she said. “Coach B. (Assistant Coach Brittany Koch-Dowell) has also been a big influence because she has been hard on me and taught me to believe in myself. And I wouldn’t be the player I am today if it wasn’t for her.”
On the court, Candice leads by example for the most part, excelling as a point guard and taking her fair share of shots.
“Candice has always been a point guard for my teams mostly because she can handle the ball and in high school sometimes that is hard to find,” Kari Koch-Dowell said. “She is a shooter and this year, we have been able to take her off the ball more which allows her to shoot. I would say her natural position is a shooting guard as she can create for others if she doesn’t have a shot.”
Given the choice, Candice admits she loves to shoot, but is always willing to do what’s best for her team.
“I enjoy being a shooter,” she said. “But right now, my team needs me as the point guard so I will do whatever my coaches and team need me to do. Being the point guard, I control the tempo and help set my team up for opportunities to score. Being the shooter helps lead the team and it’s less pressure at times.” Kari Koch-Dowell tries to keep her senior guard in the best spot to succeed, no matter where that may be in a given moment.
“Her best two things are shooting and running the team,” she said. “She has developed her game as far as handling pressure and getting our team into an offense. As she has gotten stronger, she has expanded her range for shooting which spreads out the defense.”
Running the team and being consistent is just part of what keeps Candice motivated.
“My motivation on the court is my teammates, being a team leader, and loving the game,” she said. “My coaches help with consistency. They tell me what they expect of me day in and day out. I am expected to be the team leader even on my bad nights. I can pick my team up in other ways. When my outside shot isn’t falling, I’ll drive or set my team up for shots. It’s a team sport.”
Candice’s play on the court and leadership are two of the many traits that make her so valuable to her team.
“She has many values to this team. She is one of the players that can play through being tired if we need her too, she can get hot from the three (point line), and her defense has improved tremendously this year which has allowed her to get more steals,” Kari Koch-Dowell said. “We know when she is on the floor what we are going to get from her. She is one of our consistent players who does it night in and night out.”
Kari Koch-Dowell also touched on Candice as a leader.
“Candice is a shy individual when it comes to being in groups,” Kari Koch-Dowell said. “It has taken her till her senior year to start to talk and say things. She is a people pleaser and always tries to do the right thing. She leads by example. She by no means is a vocal leader but sets good examples for others.”
As for the future, Dowell’s plan is to continue to play basketball after her prep career is over.
“I do plan to play ball after high school. I have had several offers and still have coaches calling,” she said. “To be honest I’m not sure at this moment where I will end up. I hope to be close to home. I’ve set a deadline for myself on senior night.” In any instance, it sounds like sports will be a part of her future.
“I haven’t decided if I want to major in exercise science or physical education,” Dowell said. “I want to stick with the sports side of life and enjoy it.”