It was March 7, 2020. Days before the entirety of campus was sent home. The DePauw women’s basketball team hosted Loras College in Neal Fieldhouse, losing 71-57. Natalie Kehrt ‘20 and Sydney Kopp ‘20 had been taken out of the game for the final 15 seconds.
Mya Shannon ‘22 drove the ball into the Loras zone. Claire Keefe ‘21 set up a screen at the top of the key. Shannon carried both Keefe’s and her defender into the paint, leaving Keefe with a wide open shot beyond the three point line. After receiving the reverse pass from Shannon, Keefe did not hesitate to loft another shot into the air. The buzzer blared loudly as the ball ripped through the net. She sank it. DePauw lost 71-60.
Down 14 points. Game is well out of hand. It’s clear the team isn’t going to win.
Why throw up another shot?
Pride? A little bit of revenge for the seniors? Maybe just because she saw an opening?
“I think about that day a lot. That was the last day that truly felt ‘normal.’ Whatever that ‘normal’ may be, it was the final buzzer, the final cry, of what felt like a world-ending moment, but little did I know that the last shot of my junior year would be the last official shot of 2020,” said Keefe. “It was a symbol of closing that chapter for me, but it was the start of a very special senior year.”
Keefe sinks the final three. 71-60 Loras is your final here from Neal Fieldhouse. pic.twitter.com/u8dOfEm56U
Truth is, it doesn’t matter why she threw another shot up. By showing even that slightest bit of defiance, Keefe made a very clear statement for the next season: every point counts.
On January 30, she made DePauw basketball history, becoming the 19th player in program history to reach 1,000 points. She collected 31 total points in back-to-back victories against Greenville, and brought 16 rebounds to the team as well. Currently, she stands fifth in DePauw basketball history in blocked shots and 18th in total points scored.
It should not come as a surprise that she accomplished this– she’s twice been named to the All-NCAC second team, nominated to the all-tournament NCAC team, and won the NCAC tournament MVP award in the 2018-2019 campaign. To say the absolute least, Keefe is a consistent killer on the court.
“I am pretty driven and want to always push myself to new levels. I want to put myself in situations that make me uncomfortable so I am learning to grow in different ways. So much can be accomplished if you have the right mindset and are ready to conquer it all,” Keefe said.
The Libertyville, Illinois native also received an All-NCAC honorable mention during her 2017-2018 campaign, appearing in all 28 games and leading the team in blocks with 19. Keefe hasn’t known anything but success on the court ever since she arrived three and a half years ago.
But these 1,000 point feats, NCAC accolades, and school records don’t just fall into someone’s lap. It takes a certain level of commitment, enthusiasm, and genuine passion to achieve great things, and only a select few can maintain these traits at a high level– for DePauw’s women basketball, Keefe is one of those select few.
Great people have great people around them, and that’s exactly what Keefe has in her family. “[Keefe’s] family does not take any time to get down or be upset when things get tough because we are always looking to support one another and grow every single day,” she said.
Her tenacious personality is embedded in her DNA, considering the level of inspiration her family gives her. “My dad is my role model. He goes to work everyday with a determined mind and an open heart, which is something I strive to do not only with my schoolwork, but at practice, too,” Keefe said. Her mother and father raised two boys and two girls, including her oldest brother Tom, who played water polo at Iona College and her middle brother, Jim, who played soccer at Loyola College. You might say Keefe was destined to play a sport at the collegiate level after growing up around Division I talent.
But every athlete needs a “why.”
Claire’s sister, Kelly, is her “why.”
“Kelly, my twin sister, is my rock. On November 13, 2013, she had reconstructive spinal surgery that changed our lives forever. She was unable to attend school and was bound to a wheelchair for months. She is the reason I get up everyday and play the sport I love. She is the reason I strive for greatness. If she can get through such a brutal mental and physical journey, then why can’t I get through any obstacle thrown my way?”
Unsurprisingly, Kelly feels the same way about her twin sister. “My sister inspires me because her strength and perseverance is unlike anything I have ever seen and it is remarkable,” Kelly said. “Claire is a leader and I am so lucky to have her as my sister/best friend because she inspires me to keep moving forward.”
Because of Kelly’s surgery, Claire picked up Kelly’s love for the game and carried it with her. “She represents the both of us and our love for the game, and she is playing for the both of us, which is something I am very grateful for,” Kelly said.
Claire and Kelly’s relationship is special because they continually feed each other what the other needs. In Kelly’s words, “She is my best friend, my role model, and my partner in crime. We both know that we have each other’s backs for life, we love each other unconditionally, and we have the exact same sense of humor.” Their bond inspires both of them, their shared love for basketball adds to their family dynamic, and the love they have for each other has enabled Claire to achieve greatness on the court. And greatness stems from a strong support system.
“Our family’s belief that being grateful is a gift because we are given only so many days in life, and if that time is used to self loathe or look for the negative then it is a waste of energy. Our family is humble, but dangerous,” Keefe said.