GALESBURG — Kellen Fernetti — a western Illinois native with more than 15 years of experience coaching at the four-year college, community college and high school levels — has been named the head women’s basketball coach at Carl Sandburg College.
A native of Niota and 2001 graduate of Nauvoo-Colusa High School, Fernetti comes to Sandburg after spending the last two years as the boys basketball coach at Decatur Community High School in Oberlin, Kan. Prior to that, Fernetti spent the 2019-20 season as the women’s basketball coach at Lamar (Colo.) Community College and was the head women’s basketball coach at McCook (Neb.) Community College from 2016-19.
“I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity to be the head women’s basketball coach at Sandburg and to come back home to Illinois,” Fernetti said. “Right away, this felt like a perfect fit for me. I’m ready to hit the ground running, bring a ton of energy toward helping our players reach their potential and build a lot of excitement around Chargers basketball.”
During his three seasons as head coach at McCook, Fernetti’s teams won Nebraska Community College Athletic Conference championships in 2017 and 2019, with Fernetti being named the NCCAC Coach of the Year and McCook leading the conference in scoring in both of those seasons. His squad also finished ninth in NJCAA Division I in points per game during the 2018-19 season, averaging 85.2 points and putting up a 21-11 record.
Fernetti spent 2012-16 as a men’s basketball assistant at McCook before being named the women’s basketball head coach there. With Fernetti on staff, McCook posted back-to-back winning seasons in 2014-15 and 2015-16, won the 2016 NCCAC title and ranked in the top 10 in scoring in NJCAA Division I in each of his final three seasons as an assistant.
"Our opening attracted interest from an incredibly talented pool of candidates looking to join the exciting growth of Sandburg Athletics, and Coach Fernetti quickly emerged as a positive, proven leader in NJCAA women’s basketball,” Sandburg athletic director Jerry Thor said. “Coach Fernetti’s abundance of experience building relationships at both the junior college and four-year levels, combined with his energetic and enthusiastic approach to developing young women, means our Chargers can look forward to their total development as student-athletes under his guidance. Under Coach Fernetti’s leadership, the future is bright for our women’s basketball program, and I know our players, faculty and staff will love working with him.”
Fernetti’s first collegiate coaching experience came as a graduate assistant from 2010-12 at William Woods University, where he earned a Master of Education in Athletic/Activities Administration. His first job as a coach came at West Prairie High School in Sciota, where he led the Cyclones’ junior varsity boys basketball team in 2005-06 and the varsity program from 2006-10.
A former NJCAA student-athlete, Fernetti played at John Wood Community College in Quincy from 2001-03. He totaled 906 career points, led the Blazers in scoring in both seasons and earned All-Collegiate Conference of Illinois honors as a freshman and as a sophomore. He finished his career at John Wood as the program’s all-time leader in 3-pointers in a game (nine), season (106) and career (196).
Fernetti then transferred to Hannibal-LaGrange University and was the Trojans’ leading scorer in both of his seasons there, earning a spot on the All-American Midwest Conference team in 2004 and again in 2005. In his junior season at Hannibal-LaGrange, Fernetti earned NAIA National Player of the Week honors and led the country with 146 3-pointers. He knocked down 238 treys in his two seasons with the Trojans and finished his playing career as the program’s record holder for 3s in a game (11) and season (146). Fernetti earned his Bachelor of Science in Recreation Management from Hannibal-LaGrange in 2006.
While in high school, Fernetti was part of 100 wins in his career at Nauvoo-Colusa, including a 1998 Class A state championship in his freshman season with the Vikings. As a senior, he averaged nearly 32 points and scored a career-high 54 in one game. Fernetti remains the school’s record holder in career points, points in a season and 3-pointers.
Fernetti and his family are no strangers to Sandburg. His brother Bryant played baseball for the Chargers from 2006-08 — winning an Arrowhead Conference title as a sophomore — and he played for the Sandburg men’s basketball team under current Chargers coach Ryan Twaddle in the 2007-08 season. Fernetti’s father Steve also played baseball at Sandburg, from 1980-82.
Fernetti takes over for McKenna Weaver, who led the Chargers for the last two seasons. Sandburg returns five players from this past season, including Second-Team All-Arrowhead Conference and Second-Team All-Region IV selection Addison Eger (Mendon, Ill./Unity).