Elite Lone Peak shooter and BYU commit Kailey Woolston named Deseret News 2023 Ms. Basketball
Woolston led Lone Peak to back-to-back 6A state titles, finishes as top-10 scorer in state history
Nancy Warner recalls vividly the first time she coached Kailey Woolston in a Lone Peak uniform.
It was a summer-league game at the UVU Jamboree ahead of Woolston’s freshman season, and very early in the game she pulled up from Curry-range and buried a 3-pointer.
Warner, who had seen Woolston excel at Lone Peak’s youth camps through the years and knew of her vast potential, asked the youngster during a timeout if she knew where she was on the court. Woolston said not really, she was just open and it seemed like a good shot.
Over the next four years, similar moments played out in high school gyms across the state as one of the most prolific shooters in state history buried shots from all over.
Woolston went on to set state and national records, but most importantly for the ultimate competitor, she ended her high school career as a two-time state champion in leading Lone Peak to 6A state titles each of the past two years.
She will go down in history as one of the state’s best, and is this year’s Deseret News Ms. Basketball recipient, the 29th in the history of the prestigious award handed out annually to the best player in Utah.
The BYU commit averaged 20.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game. She was a three-year starter for the Knights and four-year contributor and scored 1,653 career points to rank 10th in state history.
The volume of shots she’s taken to perfect her craft during the past decade is astronomical, but it’s never been a chore. “I just love shooting, it’s so much fun. I can’t not shoot,” she said.
She’s done so with mind-blowing efficiency, especially this season. She shot 47% from 3-point range, 52% from the field and 92% from the free-throw line.
In the UHSAA record books for single-season free-throw percentage with a minimum of 50 attempts, she holds four of the top seven spots, including a national record of 96.3% during her sophomore season.
“She puts in so much time and work, and so when she’s getting those shots and those reps she’s working not just where she’s comfortable, she’s working where she’s uncomfortable and trying to improve,” said Warner.
Her dad, Spencer Woolston, rebounds for her regularly either after Lone Peak practices, at the local church or in the driveway on the rim Woolston said is “trash” after a decade of use, and he keeps track of his daughter’s consecutive makes.
Her personal record is 162 straight made free throws and 43 straight made 3-pointers.
Woolston said she was ecstatic when she made her 149th straight free throw that day last summer, as it beat Warner’s record of 148 straight makes from her playing days both at Bountiful High and BYU.
“Being able to hit free throws is huge. Even just watching some of the games in March Madness this past week, so many games were lost because of free throws. That’s just such a huge part of the game that I think people neglect,” said Woolston.
It will inevitably play out through the women’s NCAA Tournament over the next few weeks, which Woolston said her bracket has top seed South Carolina going all the way. Of course she had to pick the top seed going all the way, as that’s exactly what Lone Peak’s team did the past two seasons in winning 6A state championships.
Athleticism is in Woolston’s blood, as her dad played football at Southern Utah and her mom played basketball at Southern Utah after an all-state career at Bingham.
Woolston played just about all the sports growing up at some point — basketball, soccer, swimming and gymnastics, among others.
At a young age Woolston said it was clear she was best at basketball and it quickly became her favorite. Her mom coached her for a few years in rec ball, but around sixth grade she started playing competitively with coach Anita Rowland, and that’s when her eyes were opened to the possibilities of what she could do in the sport and the competitive juices started flowing.
She started playing travel ball with her AAU team in seventh and eighth grade, which became a launching pad for a dominant high school career.
This season she made 78 3-pointers, finishing with 206 for her career, which ranks third in state history and the most by a top-classification school.
She put in the work to become a lethal shooter, work that translates to numerous parts of her life. Woolston has maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout high school, and she’s also a concert pianist who still plays in competitions at her local studio. Even the week before this year’s 6A state championship, she competed in an event and played Clair de Lune by Debussy.
“She strives to improve in every single aspect of her life and she wants to learn and get better. That’s an attribute that a lot of successful athletes don’t necessarily have,” said Warner.
On the court, Warner said Woolston is a legitimate three-level scorer and can also defend positions 1 through 5 with her 5-foot-11 frame. She’s a great leader within the program as well.
“She’s been an example and role model to so many kids and teammates apart of our program, including my own kids, they look up to her a lot,” said Warner. “I couldn’t pick a better role model for them to aspire to be.”
Warner said Woolston has always been a sponge when it came to basketball knowledge. Warner’s always had an open-door policy with her players if they ever wanted to watch extra film in her office. It’s something Woolston has taken advantage of regularly.
“We spend so much time together. I love just going into her office and talking things over with her. She’ll watch film with me, go over different things. She’s given me books to read to help with the mental game, and every day in practice the little things she’ll say to me,” said Woolston.
Warner was a Ms. Basketball winner herself back at Bountiful in 2002. Her name was Nancy Seljaas at the time, and a banner still hangs in the Bountiful gym to celebrate her accomplishment. She also went on to play at BYU just like Woolston will do next season.
Woolston said Warner is definitely one of her top role models, along with her mom and assistant coach Kristen Pool, who played at UVU.
Woolston said one of the biggest reasons she committed to BYU was the vision new coach Amber Whiting had for the program’s move into the Big 12 beginning next season.
“I’m so excited going into the Big 12, we’re going to be really young, a lot of good players coming in. I’m super excited,” said Woolston.
Warner has no doubt her departing senior will make an immediate impact as a freshman at BYU next season.
One of the biggest reasons why is because of her team-first approach and relentless desire to improve.
“She’s so coachable. She comes to practice every day always wanting to learn more. She’s all eyes, intently focused on whatever I have to say all the time, in timeouts, during the games, practice, team meetings, film,” said Warner. “She will do anything or everything for the betterment of the team.”
At Lone Peak, the results were a 65-7 record and two state championships.
29 years of Deseret News Ms. Basketball recipients
2023 — Kailey Woolston, Lone Peak
2022 — Teya Sidberry, Judge Memorial
2021 — Emma Calvert, Fremont
2020 — Kennady McQueen, North Summit
2019 — Kemery Martin, Corner Canyon
2018 — Lauren Gustin, Salem Hills
2017 — Taylor Moeaki, American Fork
2016 — Kennedy Redding, Bountiful
2015 — Lindsey Jensen, Sky View
2014 — Shelbee Molen, Fremont
2013 — Malia Nawahine, Springville
2012 — Brittney Martin, Syracuse
2011 — Brittney Martin, Syracuse
2010 — Lexi Eaton, Springville
2009 — Kimberly Parker, Wasatch
2008 — Jenteal Jackson, Skyline
2007 — Tasha Dickey, Brighton
2006 — Michelle Harrison, Mountain View
2005 — Vanessa Hutson, Brighton
2004 — Mallary Gillespie, Mountain View
2003 — Heather Hansen, Mountain View
2002 — Nancy Seljaas, Bountiful
2001 — Danielle Cheesman, Mountain View
2000 — Lana Sitterud, Lone Peak
1999 — Erin Thorn, Mountain View
1998 — Lisa Osguthorpe, Mountain View
1997 — Sarah Pratt, Mountain View
1998 — Megan Jensen, Davis
1997 — Emily Freeze, Timpview