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For Love of the Game

By T.J. Morgan

Freeland Sports Writer

 

Late July, school has yet to return from summer break, but Kassady London finds herself at the school nurse practitioner’s office. She wasn’t feeling like herself, and although it wouldn’t set in for some time, Kassady hadn’t felt like herself in a while.

Kassady was and is the Ms. Basketball of her time in the Metcalfe County basketball program, a child prodigy turned superstar for the Lady Hornets. From first touching the floor in Little League, Kassady was a standout. It was in her genes. Kassady’s mom, Lesley London, was a Hornet great, surpassing 1,000 career points for the Lady Hornets. Kassady continued to excel through middle school. In just 7th grade, Kassady not only earned a varsity uniform, she played in 29 varsity games. As an underclassman, Kassady had already competed in 139 games for the Lady Hornets, scoring over 1,000 career points of her own.

Kassady had become the cornerstone of the Lady Hornets program. As this late July day began to unfold, that foundation was shaking. While on the outside a superstar, on the inside she was tired, drained, and scared. As they went through routine triage, Kassady’s glucose level read 673. The visit quickly went from routine to urgent. She was sent straight from the school nurse practitioner to the local urgent care, and straight from the local urgent care to the Medical Center ER in Bowling Green. It wasn’t long before she was leaving the emergency room en route to Vanderbilt. In 14 hours, Kassady had gone from the waiting room for her school nurse to a team of experts at Vanderbilt. Everything was moving fast, way too fast for a 17-year-old girl.

“I thought the world was ending and my life was over,” she recalled as she revisited that terrifying day in her mind.

Kassady would spend days with specialists analyzing her condition and during those long days, her mind would wander to her teammates.

“My main thought was that I was letting the team down,” she said.

For anyone who has watched her play, it’s no surprise. Kassady exhibits a case study of an unselfish, team-first attitude.

The day Kassady stepped back on the court was emotional.

“I realized I can still do this with the support of my team, coaches, family, friends, and several community members. They were so invested in bringing me back.”

Kassady not only regained control of her health, she reclaimed her place on the hardwood.

“After we started practicing, I started to feel so much better,” Kassady said, “I didn’t understand how badly I felt towards the end of last season until I was treated this fall.”

When it came time for the first preseason scrimmage, her first game action since her type 1 diabetes diagnosis, Kassady didn’t miss a beat. She wasn’t just back on the floor, she was playing better, faster, and stronger than she ever had before.

She said, “It was one of the best feelings, because I was playing the sport I love and felt amazing again.”

With her diagnosis in the rearview and their star guard feeling better than ever, the Lady Hornets have the potential of a historical season. Kassady is entering this season as a preseason top 5 player in the region. Kassady remains humbled and focused on the team.

“I feel honored to be a part of the top 5 players in the region. Although this is an individual achievement, it would never have happened without the help of my teammates and coaches,” Kassady said. “While it’s a flattering recognition, my priorities are the team goals and fulfilling my role to help make this team successful.”

Not only is Kassady a preseason top 5 player in the region, the Lady Hornets are a preseason top 5 team in the region, a 16th district favorite, and a team expected to compete for the 4th region title. Kassady recognizes Metcalfe no longer carries the underdog label and the road this season will not be easy.

“The way our schedule is set up we know we are going to be challenged by tough teams all year,” Kassady said. “Our focus is one practice, one game at a time regardless of the team or ranking that we play. We are accountable to each other to leave the court a little better than we came every day.”

This season has been a long time in the making for Kassady and the Lady Hornet program. Kassady has been a phenomenal player from the beginning of her time in the program at the youngest levels. The tradition of Lady Hornet basketball flows through her veins, having her name embedded right beside her mom’s on a banner hanging high inside Metcalfe County High School gymnasium.

It is no coincidence that Kassady finds herself here.

“I’ve always grown up a Hornet,” she shared. “The impact the program has had on me and my family is huge.”

“I have heard stories about my mom being a special player and it makes me proud that I am on the same banner as her. It’s neat how it all comes full circle. Mary Lou [Feese] coached my mom, Heidi [Coleman] played with my mom, and Rachel [Dial] coached with my mom. I think that is just a good example of how this program and the people in it have been family for as long as I have known. I take such great pride in being a Lady Hornet and have looked forward to this since little league. I have developed tremendous loyalty for the Lady Hornet program, my teammates, and my community.”

In a community the size of Metcalfe County it’s not just blood that makes family. In a close-knit program in a close-knit community, Kassady has been alongside her teammates her entire life, with none of them closer than her and senior Anna Grace Blythe. Kassady and Anna Grace are in their sixth season in a varsity uniform together. Every step of their Lady Hornet journey has been together.

The moment is not lost on Kassady as she enters her junior season.

“We have grown up playing ball with each other since our elementary days,” Kassady said. “We’ve been together through injuries, good games, bad games, and those tough practices. It is very bittersweet with her being a senior. One of my main goals personally is to make this the best season for Anna Grace.”

Life not only comes full circle, it cycles fast. Not long ago Kassady was a little future Lady Hornet on the sidelines admiring the Lady Hornet team, loving the atmosphere that came with varsity games. Now just a few years later, young girls fill the stands to admire Kassady London and the Lady Hornets.

Those memories haven’t been forgotten.

“I remember when I was in their shoes,” Kassady said. “My favorite time of the year is our skills clinic and ball camp because I get to see the little kids come out and play the sport I love. It is also very rewarding when all the little girls bring us art to hang up in our lockers. Our locker room is covered with pictures and signs that the girls have drawn.”

Optimism is at an all-time high for the Lady Hornets. The possibility of their fourth straight 16th district championship. The opportunity to compete for the first 4th region championship in school history. Those are expectations that don’t seem to burden Kassady London. At the end of the day, Kassady London is a young lady who wears a smile on the floor because she is playing the game she loves. She has overcome a terrifying medical episode that weighed her body down for months. The joy of the game, the joy of being surrounded by her family, and her sisters on the court, means more now than ever. Kassady has already won, she will get to spend the last two years of her high school career enjoying her love of the game.

 

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