Mary LaBelle’s embrace of basketball and sportsmanship is a family affair wrapped around St. Joseph’s Academy.
grandfather, Tom Klees, instilled a love for the game in his children.
LaBelle’s mom, Gretchen, and five of her sisters played at St. Joseph’s
That love of the game was passed on to the next
generation. “My mom taught me how to love the game and how to play. She
was my first coach at Christ the King in University City,” LaBelle said.
connection to her grandfather continued for LaBelle at St. Joseph’s
Academy. Among the many players Klees coached at Christ the King Parish
in CYC ball was St. Joseph’s coach, Julie Matheny, and LaBelle’s aunt
was Matheny’s JV coach at the high school. Sarah Dille, LaBelle’s
cousin, also played at St. Joseph’s.
For LaBelle, a senior and
captain of the team that finished third in the state tournament this
past season, sportsmanship means “acknowledging the other team’s success
and talent, respecting the referees and the game, and keeping my
Recently it was announced LaBelle was one of the
recipients of the Carl Fricks Sportsmanship Scholarship from the St.
Louis Sports Commission Associates. Being recognized was verification
that sportsmanship and doing the right thing matters for St. Joseph’s as
well as “representing God in all that I do,” LaBelle said.
desire to do the right thing came from watching her older siblings play
sports and the emphasis on how to present herself on the court. “It’s
about how you play and how you’re developing while you play,” she said.
Joseph’s was the right fit for more reasons than just family history.
“The coaches really do help develop the full person while playing the
sport,” LaBelle said. “They represented everything I wanted to be while
playing basketball with the class, integrity, respect and compassion for
The athletic program provides the opportunity to achieve at a high level in a quality program, LaBelle said.
cites other aspects of the school, too. St. Joseph’s, she said, has a
balanced approach in developing the students, with a caring and helpful
LaBelle is headed to Kansas State University in
Manhattan, Kan., chosen in part for its business school where she’ll
study accounting and finance. Other factors include the unpretentious
people she’s met there and the active Newman Center on campus and its
Wednesday evening Masses.
“My faith means sharing God’s love with
others and recognizing it in others,” she said. “It’s important to keep
Him in mind in your life, He’s the constant who’s always there. When you
serve others, you humble yourself. It makes it easier to want to serve
more when you are able to see how people in different situations still
can share God’s love with you. In college, I want to keep serving
Though she won’t be playing for the university — there’s a
family connection, of course, in that two of her mom’s sisters played
for K-State — she’ll likely play intramural basketball. “I’m not ready
to put the ball down yet,” LaBelle said.
St. Joseph’s head
basketball coach Julie Matheny tells of seeing LaBelle after a game at
Duchesne High School picking up all the cups from under the bench,
putting the chairs back on the rack and making sure the visitors’ area
was clean and presentable.
Matheny described LaBelle as
competitive, a great teammate, faith-based and a leader who led by
example. “She’s loyal in regard to family and her team,” Matheny said.
“I know she’s going to be successful wherever her feet land her. She
comes from a great family, a big family, a lot of love and people who
have trust in God and are conscious that the decisions they make have
LaBelle “didn’t have to preach it, she just did it,” Matheny said of her former point guard’s leadership.