Kemiji-McDonald a rare breed of three-sport star 

click to enlarge Jack of all trades: St. Ignatius’ Maria Kemji-McDonald led the Wildcats in scoring in basketball, but her sport of choice in college will be lacrosse. - CLARIVEL FONG/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Clarivel Fong/Special to The S.F. Examiner
  • Jack of all trades: St. Ignatius’ Maria Kemji-McDonald led the Wildcats in scoring in basketball, but her sport of choice in college will be lacrosse.

Maria Kemiji-McDonald is a dying breed.

In the age of specialization, where athletes, specifically in high school, improve on skills by focusing on one sport, Kemiji-McDonald has played three at St. Ignatius for her entire high school career.

For the second year in a row, Kemiji-McDonald is The San Francisco Examiner and Girls’ Athlete of the Year, not only because she plays three sports, but because she excels at them all.

In basketball, her best sport, the senior led the Wildcats in scoring (13.1 points per game), was just the second St. Ignatius girls’ basketball player to win West Catholic Athletic League Payer of the Year and missed All-City POY honors by the slimmest of margins (but was named to the first team).

“She has a tremendous will to win,” St. Ignatius girls’ basketball coach Mike Mulkerrins said. “She absolutely hates losing, and especially in basketball, she tried to put the team on her back.”

In the fall, she was one of the main offensive options for the volleyball team, earning a WCAL honorable mention and second-team All-City honors.

But it was her performance in the spring season that caught the eye of the University of Michigan.

Nearly every season, because of the basketball team’s success, Kemiji-McDonald missed a chunk of the lacrosse season, but when she played, she was a leader, and scored five goals twice this season, against Monte Vista and Amador Valley, respectively.

Maybe more importantly, it was her impact on the defensive side of the field as a rangy midfielder that helped the Wildcats’ lacrosse team the most.

“We’re really fortunate to have a great group of athletes come through our school, but she has risen above,” St. Ignatius girls’ lacrosse coach Amy Harms said. “It takes a unique athlete to do all those things well. I’m jealous of all the other sports, where they had her for the whole season, but she made us better.”

Although Kemiji-McDonald only played competitive high school lacrosse for a combined eight months and didn’t pick up a stick until her freshman year, she is headed to Michigan to play at the Division I level.

She will attend Michigan, but won’t play next season, because the school won’t have a team yet. Michigan will play its inaugural season when she is in her sophomore year.

“It’s an exceptional opportunity for her,” Harms said. “Obviously, lacrosse is a booming sport, but to be able to be a part of the first team at the school is amazing. She’s choosing the sport that she has the most potential in.”

She had offers to play basketball at Division II and Division III schools, but the fact that she chose lacrosse and has the ability to play at an elite level speaks to just how exceptional her athletic ability is and was in her time at St. Ignatius.

“If she chose any one of those three sports to focus on, who knows what she could have done?” Mulkerrins said.

“She’s a rare phenomenal athlete and I don’t know if we’re going to be able to see another in this era of high school sports.”

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Jeremy Balan

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