“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, and others make it happen.” – Michael Jordan
Kasandra first came into our gym the summer before her 5th grade year. The youngest of 4 children, her basketball-crazed family knew of the basketball-crazed coach running open gyms in the summer for boys and girls in the district. She came into my gym as this skinny blond girl with a goofy smile. She leaves as the best basketball player I’ve ever coached.
Kasandra’s development has been a testament to her passion for basketball. Other players work hard, but Kasandra lives and breathes it. As a 5th grader, she and her “basketball sister” Madison came to our Winter Break boot camps we hold with Varsity teams to get them in shape. This is a session that would have included fellow Spartan greats and Conference Champs Heather Wrzesinski, Stephanie Zurales, Anna Fischer, Ahona Mazumder, Amanda Thate, Shannon Snyder, etc etc etc… From the very get go, Kasandra showed a special desire to be better than good. She fought through a challenging year as a 5th grader on our 6th grade school team against travel teams. Never any close loses, let alone wins. But the kid was a clear leader. And clearly a baller.
A year later, not even a 6th grader, she and Madison, again, were playing with Amanda and Ava Porlier in a Summer League for 8th graders. She didn’t star, but fit in perfectly. She even played with them (after her first place, MVP JV season) during the Mayor’s Tournament. She and Madison scored when other starters in 8th grade did not. She attended Doug Bruno, LV’s summer camps, and plays on her own full-court backyard. That basket-ball crazed family produces some incredibly intelligent, skilled players. Hours on her own, under the tutelage of her father, and on her own will produced another impressive off-season.
As she began 7th grade, she began the season with the goal of bringing us to a 3rd straight title game. I held pre-season open gyms and small-group workshops. I’d end at 4, and come back by the gym an hour later to find her doing full-court ballhandling drills and shooting. She not only started on our 8th grade team, but was our leading scorer and All-Star. Despite a frustrating year of close losses, Kasandra remained committed to her dream of being a special player. She joined one of the most challenging travel teams in the area. She came in for one-on-one training and open gyms vs. the boys. And won, mind you.
Kasandra is, again, our leading scorer. She’s our best 0n-the-ball defender. Our 2nd leading rebounder. 2nd in steals and assists. Shoots 55% from the field. Set our program record for 26 points in a game (did so in 13 minutes, too). Led a team that only let 2 teams break 30 points and 4 more break 20 in 23 games thus far. We’ve set team records for season and single-game steals, assists, blocks, rebounds, and points. She has been the lynchpin in everything we’ve done. Not always starring, but always leading. Making an extra pass to a teammate. Diving for a loose ball. Guarding the best players on other teams. Playing hurt. Playing scared. No matter the barriers, she’s faced, Kasandra has pushed herself in a way few players have. She doesn’t just wish she was great. She physically and mentally makes herself become great.
But most of all, Kasandra has pushed me. Having someone as skilled as she is has forced me to spend time in my garage doing drills to improve her. I’ve traveled the midwest attending clinics and practices learning at my own expense, because I know she’s attending clinics and practices, also getting better. While I’ve never exactly been lazy, knowing a player like Kasandra is in my program has energized me to a level I’ve never been at. I can’t possibly let her down. And not because of her skill – because of her will, her desire to be special. Kasandra’s work ethic hasn’t just turned a group of girls into ballers – it’s pushed me to be an innovative and ever-improving coach. Her passion is that strong.
All in all, in 4 years, I don’t think Kasandra’s really ever left the gym. Nor do I think she ever will. She’e left behind a legacy on and off the court that future Spartans should strive to reach. Wish it, want it, or make it… Kasandra has made it pretty clear that if you want greatness, stop wishing. Make it happen.