For Kelsey Ragan ’25 and Jazmyn Gaines-Burns ’25, playing basketball at Wittenberg University is a family affair. That doesn’t mean they were always destined to follow in the footsteps of their fathers, Luke Ragan ’94 and John Burns ’95, teammates on the Tiger men’s basketball team three decades earlier.
The elder Ragan and Burns both said they made sure to allow their daughters the opportunity to make their own college decisions, no matter how many great memories they have from their undergraduate days in Springfield. Matching a student up with the right college is no simple task, but halfway through their collegiate careers, it is safe to say that things are working out well for everyone.
A Friend’s Perspective
For Kelsey Ragan, whose mother Rachelle (Moore) Ragan ’94 was an All-American first baseman for the Tiger softball team as well, her initial instinct was to look elsewhere after completing a tremendous prep career at Anthony Wayne High School in suburban Toledo. However, Abigail Yunker ’22, also a graduate of Anthony Wayne, provided a convincing sales pitch after a shooting session with Kelsey at the Ragan’s home.
“Both of my parents graduated from Wittenberg, and I didn’t want to go somewhere that people might have had this preconceived idea or expectation of me either based on my last name or my parent’s achievements when they were students,” Kelsey said. “I had a handful of colleges interested in me, and I visited every one of them to make sure I was confident in whatever school I was going to choose.
“The one person who I talked with that really changed my perspective about Wittenberg was Abigail Yunker. We were family friends before all of this, and I have always respected her as a person and player. One day after shooting we just sat down and had a really good conversation about Wittenberg, my interests/concerns about it, and we just broke it all down. I knew I wanted to study marine science while playing basketball, and Wittenberg offered me both. I couldn’t pass up that opportunity, so after that talk, I scheduled my visit here and haven’t looked back since.”
Her father recalls the Wittenberg visit as well, saying that he “tried to stay out of her way and didn’t add much to that day as to my memories or experiences.
“When she finally made her decision, it was an exciting time for her just to know where she was going to be for the next four years,” Luke said. “It was a cool moment for Rachelle and me as it rekindled some relationships in Springfield and brought back memories from when we were there. It was a proud moment as Kelsey realized a goal of playing college basketball.
“Wittenberg has changed a bit since we were there, but the welcoming, charming nature of campus has remained intact.”