ST. LOUIS (USBWA) Laura Keeley,
sportswriter for the Raleigh News & Observer, has been named
winner of the Rising Star Award, given annually
by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association to a member under the
age of 30 who shows great promise as a college basketball writer.
Keeley is the first woman to be named the USBWA's Rising Star.
She emerged from a pool of eight candidates for the award, half
of which were women.
"I'm proud that there are so many young women sports writers
out there," Keeley said, "and that there are more and more good
While the past winners who determined this year's winner made
it clear that Keeley, 27, was named the winner on merit, they were
delighted to ensure that the fraternity of Rising Star award winners
is never just a young boys' club.
"I think the first female recipient of the award would stand
as a testament to the rising wave of gender diversity among college
basketball writers and the industry at large," said Eamonn Brennan
of ESPN.com, a past Rising Star recipient. "The USBWA Rising Star
Award looks to the future of the business, and so it should reflect
and promote the bigger tent our business is gradually, and haltingly,
Keeley's career as a sportswriter began as a student at Duke.
Her writing career began in the fifth grade, when an assignment
to write an editorial for a "colonial newspaper" drew unexpected
praise from teachers.
"Maybe I'm good at this," thought the fifth grader.
But there would be other factors to consider. During a visit
to Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, a flier intending
to promote the prestigious program had the opposite affect on Keeley.
"On the back, it had the average starting salary for Medill grads,
and I think it was in the low 30s and that might even be generous,"
Keeley recalled. "And I remember thinking, Can I survive on that
little money?' I wasn't ready to put it all into journalism at that
Keeley went instead to Duke, which does not have a traditional
journalism program. After a semester of chemistry and calculus,
she returned to her journalistic roots by signing up to write for
the student newspaper to cover Duke sports for The Chronicle.
She interned as a business writer for two summers with Bloomberg
News, but she was pulled back to sports writing to become a prep
writer for the Tampa Bay Times. Keeley was covering the Blue Devils
again one year later when the News & Observer hired her in August
Keeley said she has never felt conflicted while covering her
alma mater even as she covered the Blue Devils in last season's
national championship game perhaps because she was never very
far removed from her days as a student who objectively covered the
Blue Devils for The Chronicle.
She is well aware, however, that she's covering a high-profile
"Covering Duke basketball, I assume that most people probably
either saw the highlights or watched the game on TV," Keeley said.
"I try to be observant, because if I'm not bringing anything beyond
what you can see on TV, I'm not really doing my job."
Brennan noted a Duke-Syracuse game story in which Keeley noted
that Mike Krzyzewski used the word "amazing" 10 times during his
six minutes and 17 seconds on the dais. She also pointed out that
"in the first eight minutes of the second half, the Orange missed
15 shots and grabbed 12 offensive rebounds." That was a statistic
that told readers everything they needed to know about Duke's struggles
and voters why Keeley should be this year's Rising Star.
The U.S. Basketball Writers Association was formed in
1956 at the urging of then-NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers.
With some 900 members worldwide, it is one of the most influential
organizations in college basketball. It has selected a women's All-America
team since the 1996-97 season. For more information on the USBWA
and its award programs, contact executive director Joe Mitch at