Editor’s note: This is the second of a “Where Are They Now?” series that will run on the third Tuesday of each month during the Kenosha News’ 125th anniversary year. The series focuses on former Kenosha County standout athletes and their lives after sports.
Even though it’s been 18 years since Megan Wells — formerly Bernardy — finished her standout girls basketball career at Bradford, from time to time she’ll display her skills to her players on the Christian Life girls basketball team.
Wells, in her first year as the Eagles’ coach, said she’ll put down the whistle and grab a ball once in a while.
“I get the opportunity to play with the girls, which is kind of nice for me to get the experience to get out on the court with them and keep myself in shape,” Wells said Tuesday. “... I take every opportunity I get to get on the court and show these girls what’s up, let them know that I’ve still got it.”
So, does she still have it?
“I’d like to think so,” Wells said with a laugh. “ ... A couple weeks ago, we had a staff-student basketball game in front of the upper school. I feel like I played pretty well.
“Some of the girls came up to me afterwards and said, ‘Oh, that’s what you mean when you said to post up.’”
Maybe Wells, who graduated from Bradford in 2001 before a standout collegiate career at Evangel University in Springfield, Mo., doesn’t quite have the post moves she used to, but largely through basketball she’s settled into a seemingly perfect fit at Christian Life.
In addition to coaching the girls basketball team, Wells is the school’s marketing director and also teaches in the physical education department.
She said her role fulfills her “three passions.”
“I get to teach, I get to coach, and I get to do marketing,” Wells said. “And I don’t have to leave the building.”
Following her career at Evangel, Wells stayed in Missouri for a while and coached an AAU team and assisted for a high school program.
She moved back to Kenosha in 2010 and worked for Herzing University as director of community partnerships and then for MG Design as a marketing strategist. Wells, who holds a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting from Evangel and a master’s degree in sports management from Cardinal Stritch, also served as an adjunct professor teaching sports marketing at Cardinal Stritch in Milwaukee.
It was when she took a maternity leave, however, that the opportunity at CLS arrived.
Wells and her husband Andy had their first child, daughter Emerson — she’ll turn one on March 1 — in 2018. Wells attended Journey Church — CLS is a ministry of Journey Church — most of her life and while on maternity leave was approached by friends who worked at the school.
It turned out the school needed a girls basketball coach, and a marketing position opened up, too.
“I thought that the change of pace from the agency (MG Design) that I was working for might be a better fit for my life with starting a family,” Wells said. “It’s really worked out.”
And basketball has been a strong thread weaving through Wells’ life from a young age.
She played three years on the Red Devils’ varsity team under Dee Simon, but the first two were spent in the shadow of Jamie Gray, one of the best girls players in county history.
Wells certainly was productive her sophomore and junior seasons, but she really blossomed as a senior, averaging 17 points per game in 2000-01. She was named first-team All-Southeast Conference and the SEC South Division Player of the Year, back when the conference had two divisions.
Positive college experience
Wells was recruited by bigger schools than Evangel — which was an NAIA Division II school then but has moved up to NAIA Division I now — but felt it was the best fit for her.
She didn’t regret the decision, as she played in the NAIA Division II national tournament all four years with the Crusaders, including a Final Four appearance her senior year. No matter the level, Wells said the experience of playing deep into national tournaments was unforgettable.
“When I was trying to decide where I was going to go play, I had a variety of offers to different types of schools,” Wells said. “I probably could’ve gone to a bigger school and sat the bench and had a great experience as well.”
But Evangel provided something different.
“Just an experience that has really stuck with me, and to be able to not only have those lifelong relationships with my teammates, but also to be part of a team where we said, ‘Man, we really did something so cool,’ is so special,” Wells said.
When reminiscing about her high school and college career, Wells said it’s the relationships and camaraderie with teammates — former Bradford teammate Tenisha Williams-Jelks is an assistant coach for her at Christian Life — that she remembers more than the wins and losses.
“We had some good seasons and some not-so-good seasons, but if you were to ask me, ‘What was your record and how did you guys finish,’ that’s way more foggy,” Wells said.
Now, Wells is trying to impart the same lessons to her players and students.
It’s a learning process for both Wells and her team. She laughed when asked if working with teenage girls has given her some perspective on what her coaches dealt with when she was a teenager.
“Things have changed a little bit, but these girls are wonderful,” Wells said. “High school girls, in general, tend to be a little sassy. Looking back now, I have a little more empathy for my mother and my coach at Bradford.”
The Eagles have had their struggles on the court this season, finishing the regular season 7-14 overall and 1-11 in the Midwest Classic Conference. Seeded 11th, they’ll play at sixth-seeded Dodgeland in a WIAA Division-4 regional quarterfinal at 7 tonight.
Ever a competitor, Wells admitted it wasn’t always the easiest season, but she knows her players are working their hardest and also learning from a first-year coach.
“They’re learning a lot, and I’m learning a lot, so I’m excited to see what’s in store for us,” Wells said.
More importantly than wins and losses, she wants her players to grow as people and learn the same lessons from the game that she did.
“I think that getting re-introduced to the life of a high school girl has been a growing opportunity for me, just revisiting everything that these girls go through on top of just playing basketball,” Wells said. “It’s been a lot of opportunity for me to give them perspective.
“... My goal is just to help them be better women as they go on through their lives. I’m a firm believer that playing basketball really prepared me for what came after high school and college.
“There’s a lot more lifelong principles (to learn) than what your record is.”