September 30, 2014

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Jump high and stick it in the basket
Written by Bob Hyle   
Tuesday, February 19, 2013 9:55 PM

I was watching a Harrison Wildcats basketball game last week. Harrison took the ball out from underneath its own basket.

The in-bounds passer flipped the ball high in front of the rim and the Harrison post player - the tallest player on the court - jumped high, caught it, and put it in the basket. It’s a simple and highly effective play.

When I coached my daughter’s fourth-grade basketball team at St. John the Baptist, we ran a similar play that also worked quite well.

It worked so well because we usually had the tallest player on the court in a young girl named Cassie Naegele.

It sometimes takes a while for tall kids to develop their coordination as their bodies are constantly growing.

Cassie was fortunate, though, because she could jump up and catch the ball, keep the ball above her head, and then shoot it into the basket.

Cassie could run as fast or faster than any kid, particularly when she got her long legs moving. I have a clear memory of her chasing down and catching an opponent in a game at the old Harrison High School and then blocking the shot.

She also had fire in her belly, which was a joy for me because I wanted my team to win. I wasn’t obsessive about it.

I didn’t yell at the girls if they lost, particularly if it was against a more talented team, but I didn’t have to yell because when they lost you could tell that it hurt a little bit.

Some of the players on the team were extremely competitive. They wanted to win and they worked hard, even as fourth graders, to make sure they put everything they had into the game.

In the long run, fourth-grade basketball seems pretty meaningless, but I don’t believe you should discourage someone who wants to be better than others.

Cassie grew up on Carolina Trace Road in West Harrison so she attended Franklin County High School after she left St. John the Baptist. I didn’t see her much after that, but I heard enough to be happy for her that she graduated from the University of Cincinnati and found someone to love.

Cassie goes by the name Cassie Freese now and she and her husband, Jake, face a bigger challenge than any basketball game. Their 17-month old daughter was born with polymicrogyria (PMG), which is a developmental malformation of the brain.

It’s a challenge not only for the three of them, but for their extended family and friends as well.
They have a lot of friends, too. Last Saturday night they filled up the Harrison K of C Hall for a benefit to help the family cope with the challenges that are unimaginable for those of us whose only medical issue with our kids was an occasional trip to the emergency room.

You can still help. Supporters are being called Emileigh’s Beelievers and you can become one by making a donation to an account that has been set up at Merchants Bank & Trust in West Harrison or by following Emileigh at Emileigh’s Bright Side of Life on Facebook.

I’m betting that Emileigh has her mother’s determination. I can see her scrunching her face up like her mom and telling herself she will not be defeated.

When I saw that look on Cassie’s face I just got out of the way and let her run with it. I pray that Cassie sees that look of determination on Emileigh’s face as well.

Bob Hyle covers sports and writes a weekly column for The Harrison Press. He lives in Bright.