K.K. Bransford

Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame junior K.K. Bransford.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame High School junior KK Bransford was announced as Ohio’s Ms. Basketball Wednesday by a statewide media panel. 

Now in its 34th year, the prestigious award was first given by the Associated Press in 1988. It has been voted by the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association since 2017.

This past season, Bransford led the Cincinnati Girls Greater Catholic League in scoring (21.4), assists (5.1), field goal percentage (51.5) and steals (3 per game) and she was third in the league in rebounding (6.4).

The 5-foot-10 all-purpose has now played in an incredible 72 consecutive winning basketball games for Mount Notre Dame, which includes two state championships.

Had it not been for the coronavirus pandemic cancellation of the 2020 state tournament, it may have been three state titles as MND was also 28-0 a year ago.

In the 2021 state tournament, Bransford nearly delivered back-to-back triple-doubles. In the semifinal against Toledo Notre Dame Academy she had 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. She followed that up with 21 points 10 assists and eight boards against Newark in the championship game.

To make her accolades even more notable, Bransford has played three seasons alongside Laila Phelia, a Michigan signee and McDonald's All-American nominee. 

Newark senior Emma Shumate was the Ohio Ms. Basketball runner-up. Other finalists were Laurel senior Taylor Thierry, Berlin Hiland senior Zoe Miller, Toledo Notre Dame Academy junior Grace Van Slooten and Aurora senior Shyanne Sellers.

K.K. Bransford Named Ohio’s Ms. Basketball For 2021

By Scott Springer, Cincinnati Enquirer

READING, Ohio – According to her high school coach, KK Bransford has the knack of doing what it takes to win. It might mean knocking down a shot, dishing an assist, grabbing a key rebound, diving for a loose ball or guarding the other team's best player.

KK Bransford did all of those things in Mount Notre Dame's most recent visit to the Ohio Division I state championship. That's why MND drove home from the University of Dayton Arena with their eighth state basketball title.

That's why Bransford, who scored eight of her 21 points in MND's victory in the second overtime against Newark, is Ohio's Ms. Basketball.

"She makes so many people around her better, not just on the court, but off the court," MND coach Dr. Scott Rogers said. "Her basketball IQ is so high. She understands that if you want the big prize, you have to sacrifice some scoring. All that's done is cause her game to evolve. She had 10 assists in the state final."

Bransford has now played in an incredible 72 consecutive winning basketball games for the Cougars and has been part of two state championships. Had it not been for the coronavirus pandemic cancellation of the 2020 state tournament, it may have been three state titles as MND was also 28-0 a year ago.

"I'm super happy, super blessed, super surprised," Bransford said of the honor. "I always say Ohio has the best talent in girls basketball in the country. To be considered Ms. Basketball is amazing to me."

For better perspective, the 5-foot-10 all-purpose player is 87-2 in her varsity career which will include one more season as the most sought-after player in the state.

Bransford's college suitors include the elite-level programs you would imagine chasing a Ms. Basketball Her choices are down to a dozen "blue-bloods": Maryland, Connecticut, UCLA, Louisville, Notre Dame, Michigan, Arizona, Tennessee, Baylor, Texas, Duke and North Carolina.

K.K., whose real name is Calyn, became K.K. when she was small and her brother couldn't pronounce her name. Calyn came out K.K. and it stuck. Now, anyone connected with women's college basketball recruiting is familiar with KK Bransford.

Though she still isn't in a hurry to commit to a college, she's currently enjoying the NCAA Women's Tournament featuring many of the schools on her list.

"It's so competitive!" Bransford said. "You don't know who is going to win. I feel like the girls' game is really evolving. I'm just very grateful to all the schools that have taken time to recruit me."

As demonstrated throughout her career, Bransford can jump center, run the point, post up, deliver a dime and bury a three. This past season she led the Girls Greater Catholic League in scoring (21.4), assists (5.1), field goal percentage (51.5) and steals (3 per game). She was third in the league in rebounding, pulling down 6.4.

"K.K. can play any position she wants," Rogers said. "We've had her at the one, at shooting guard, playing the five. She can match-up with pretty much anybody."

In the state tournament, she nearly delivered back-to-back triple-doubles. In the semifinal against Toledo Notre Dame Academy she had 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. She followed that up with 21 points 10 assists and eight boards against Newark in the championship game.

Her high game this year was 31, but as a sophomore, she once scored 40 against Gahanna Lincoln. As a freshman, she made her debut with 29 points against Columbus Africentric. Neither of those programs would be considered a slouch.

To make her accolades even more notable, Bransford has played three seasons alongside Laila Phelia, a Michigan signee and McDonald's All-American nominee. Together, they shared the ball and shared the wealth of 72 straight wins and a pair of championships.

"She's so deserving of that award (Ms. Basketball) because she's not just about personal statistics, she's about team statistics," Rogers said.

In 2020 Bransford had Makira Cook of the University of Dayton with her and 2019 she played with Gabbie Marshall of the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Bransford becomes the first Greater Cincinnati recipient of Ms. Basketball since 2014 when Kelsey Mitchell (Princeton, Ohio State, WNBA) was chosen. She's the third Mount Notre Dame winner joining 2009's Kendall Hackney (Northwestern) and 2004's Mel Thomas (Connecticut).

Rogers compares Bransford's basketball intellect with Thomas who played for Geno Auriemma at Connecticut. Thomas reached out to MND's state championship team via video from Florida prior to the Cougars' title run in Dayton.

Other Cincinnati winners have been Amber Gray (Lakota West, Tennessee, Xavier, WNBA) in 2008, Michelle Munoz (Mason, Tennessee, Ohio State) in 2000 and 2001, Carol Madsen (Reading,Xavier) in 1989 and Janet Haneburg (Seton) in 1988.

Five other girls have won Ms. Basketball twice or more. Just a junior, Bransford will be back with Dr. Rogers for one more run at Mount Notre Dame with a shot at joining that elite club.

Past Ohio Ms. Basketball Ohio winners

2021 – KK Bransford, Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame, junior

2020 – Madeline Westbeld, Kettering Fairmont, senior

2019 – Kierstan Bell, Canton McKinley, senior

2018 – Kierstan Bell, Canton McKinley, junior

2017 – Kierstan Bell, Canton McKinley, sophomore

2016 – Jensen Caretti, Hannibal River, senior

2015 – Hallie Thome, Chagrin Falls, senior

2014 – Kelsey Mitchell, Cin. Princeton, senior

2013 – Ashley Morrissette, Twinsburg, senior

2012 – Ameryst Alston, Canton McKinley, senior

2011 – Ameryst Alston, Canton McKinley, junior

2010 – Natasha Howard, Tol. Waite, senior

2009 – Kendall Hackney, Cin. Mount Notre Dame, senior

2008 – Amber Gray, West Chester Lakota West, senior

2007 – Jantel Lavender, Cleveland Central Catholic, senior

2006 – Tyra Grant, Youngstown Ursuline, senior

2005 – Maria Getty, Dayton Chaminade-Julienne, senior

2004 – Mel Thomas, Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame, senior

2003 – Brittany Hunter, Columbus Brookhaven, senior

2002 – Barbara Turner, Cleveland East Tech, senior

2001 – Michelle Munoz, Mason, senior

2000 – Michelle Munoz, Mason, junior

1999 – (TIE) Kaayla Chones, Eastlake North, senior; LaToya Turner, Pickerington, senior

1998 – Tamika Williams, Dayton Chaminade-Julienne, senior

1997 – Semeka Randall, Garfield Hts. Trinity, senior

1996 – Semeka Randall, Garfield Hts. Trinity, junior

1995 – Beth Ostendorf, Pickerington, senior

1994 – Na’Sheema Hillmon, Garfield Hts. Trinity, senior

1993 – Marlene Stollings, Beaver Eastern, senior

1992 – Katie Smith, Logan, senior

1991 – Vonda Ward, Garfield Hts. Trinity, senior

1990 – Vonda Ward, Garfield Hts. Trinity, junior

1989 – Carol Madsen, Reading, senior

1988 – Janet Haneberg, Cincinnati Seton, senior

Notable

Three-time winner: Kierstan Bell, Canton McKinley (2017, 2018, 2019).

Won as junior (6): Vonda Ward, Garfield Heights. Trinity (1990, 1991); Semeka Randall, Garfield Heights Trinity (1996, 1997); Michelle Munoz, Mason (2000, 2001), Ameryst Alston, Canton McKinley (2011, 2012), Kierstan Bell, Canton McKinley (2017, 2018, 2019), KK Bransford, Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame (2021).

Won as sophomore (1): Kierstan Bell, Canton McKinley (2017)

Co-winners (1): 1999 - Kaayla Chones, Eastlake North and LaToya Turner, Pickerington

Power our sports coverage!

Help make local news that keeps you informed and connected with your community sustainable in Knox County. Be a member for less than $5/month.