By Steve Robinson | March 2, 2018 - 10:22 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

As Cassi Kraft waited to demonstrate her skills at the COUNTRY Financial 3-Point Shootout on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena Thursday, March 1, she said the advice she got from her coach, Normal Community High School head girls’ basketball coach Marcus Mann was staying with her. She said the advice was, “Not to stress about it and do what you do.”

What does Cassi, a junior at NCHS, do on the court? She makes long shots. In Regional competition to get to this point, Cassi hit 8-of-15 shots. That got her into a runoff where she hit 5-of-10 from the baseline, which advanced her to Sectionals. At Sectionals, she made 10-of-15.

Needless to say, Cassi’s confidence in her ability with numbers like that spoke for itself. As it turned out, during the first round at Sectionals, three girls got 10-of-15 forcing a runoff from which Cassi emerged victorious. “It was definitely exciting and I’m happy to make it to State,” Cassi said as she waited for her chance to compete here.

Basketball runs in the Kraft family DNA, it turns out. Cassi’s mother, Chris, is a 1990 NCHS grad who was on the Lady Ironmen squad back then. So, any advice from Mom would also be beneficial. “I just told her to stay calm,” Chris Kraft said. Basketball manages to go as far back in the family bloodline as Cassi’s grandmother, Pat Nickrent, who played some intramural basketball.

Cassi’s older sister, Anna, an NCHS senior, has basketball in her history, too, but it only went as far as junior high for her before moving on to other activities. “Cassi stayed after school a lot of days for practice, so it was just important for us to support her with words, but not have her think about it too much,” Anna explained about the way the family has shown support leading up to the event at Redbird Arena.

Another NCHS senior and teammate, Chloe Wright, who will attend Missouri State University in the fall, sat next to Anna as the group of Cassi’s supporters, which grew to around 25 people by the time her turn came around, waited for the competition to begin. They sat together in the stands near the south basket, a mix of family, her friends, and family friends who came to see how she would do.

“My advice to her was ‘play with confidence, have fun, and just do you’ because she’s a great player,” Wright said.

In the end though, Cassi sank 7-of-15 shots. Now her season, like NCHS’, is over, too. “It was kind of rough,” Cassi said when she was done. In practices, she had been consistently sinking 9 shots. Despite the outcome, “it was a lot of fun,” Cassi said. “I’m glad I got the opportunity to do this.”

“I think she did great,” said her father, Louie Kraft. “This is a lot of pressure on any high school kid. I thought she and all the girls did a great job today. It was a lot of fun to watch.”

Seeing the support that a number of these girls, including Cassi, had for this event was interesting to experience, even if the featured performer is nervous on the inside. Cassi didn’t show any nerves though, even when I approached about doing an interview which we did afterward. And seeing family and friends come out and support an athlete proved reassuring, no doubt. The girls are done for another year. The boys have their turn next week at Carver Arena in Peoria. Who knows? Possibly one of our local guys could be Illinois’ next 3-Point “King Of The Hill”?

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