By Hilary Winter
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Nebraska head coach Connie Yori often refers to Dominique Kelley as the "mayor" of Lincoln. With such a title attached to her name, Kelley knows that being a native of Lincoln accompanies extra responsibility and expectations.
"I try not to get too consumed in it," Kelley said. "Some high expectations come with the season we had last year and being part of that team, but I work to be team-oriented and just help us win games whether that is through scoring or playing defense, it doesn't matter."
Throughout her first couple of years as a Husker, Kelley had to learn how to balance the pressure of meeting everyone's requests, while also fulfilling her own needs and making sure she was healthy.
"I am a people pleaser, so I struggled the first few years with over-committing and telling people I could do everything," Kelley said. "It exhausted me emotionally, and I eventually learned that it's ok to tell people no. It's all about making sure I am healthy academically, physically and for my overall emotional well-being."
The top player in the state of Nebraska as a high school senior in 2006-07, Kelley has come a long way since being named the Gatorade Nebraska Player of the Year after an outstanding final season at Lincoln Northeast High School in 2007. She enters her senior year at Nebraska as NU's top returning scorer and is closing in on becoming the 26th Husker to reach the 1,000-point mark. The only other Lincoln native on NU's 1,000-point list is Jan Crouch, who scored 1,183 points from 1976 to 1979.
Even with representing her hometown each week and all of her on-the-court accolades, there is one thing that Kelley is most proud of- being a first generation college student and setting a good example for her family. This factor weighed into her decision of coming to school close to home as she wanted her mom to be nearby and experience everything with her. And just as Kelley is a competitor on the court, her mom and her have started a competition off the court to see who finishes college first.
"During my sophomore year my mom decided to go back to school to get her degree," Kelley said. "Now we're competing to see who is going to graduate college first. It's awesome and rewarding to be able to share my experiences with her and my brothers and sisters."
As a senior, Kelley is looking to keep her focus clear and consistent. She is the emotional leader of the team and has worked continuously to remember that this year is her last chance. Whether it may be in practice or a game, she sets the tone emotionally and gets her teammates fired up.
Kelley is proud of the accomplishments that she has helped her team reach in getting Nebraska to its first-ever NCAA Sweet 16 in 2010 and its best season in school history. The success of last season and her opportunity to continue to play with the people she looks up to most are what make her proudest as an athlete at Nebraska.
"I am so proud of how competitive we are," Kelley said. "A lot of us didn't decide to come here because we dreamed of contending for Big 12 Conference titles, we were all just really hard working kids. We're kids that take pride in our character and the type of people that we are. When I step on the court with my teammates I feel good about what I'm doing. We've won over a lot of people with the way we've played the game and handled ourselves."
To Kelley, this season is her last chance to leave a mark and to walk away from the program with no regrets. It's a legacy that she wants to contribute to the identity of Nebraska women's basketball and one that she hopes fans do not forget.
"I want people to know how genuine I was as a person," Kelley said. "I am extremely competitive, but when you set everything athletically aside, I was committed and devoted to my team."