By ALAN HOSKINS
KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- For a standout softball player, Cassidy Harbert has been one heck of a catch for Kansas City Kansas Community College’s nationally ranked women’s basketball team.
“I was more of a softball player and originally wanted to play Division I,” says Harbert, a 5-6 freshman point guard from Wichita Northwest.
“We went to nationals in Alabama and I just got burned out,” she says, who played both softball and basketball all four years but abandoned softball after setting a record for basketball assists as a senior at Northwest.
Now she’s handing out enough assists to lead the Jayhawk Conference by a substantial margin, averaging 6.67 per game or nearly an assist a game more than her nearest rival (5.72). It’s a pace that if maintained, she can blow past the KCKCC all-time record of 207 assists set by All-American Aneta Kausaite in 1995-96.
Harbert is also No. 3 in the Jayhawk in steals with 3.3 per game, is tied for the team lead with 7.1 rebounds per game, scores 9.5 points per game and shoots 44.8 percent from the field and 48.8 percent from 3-point – statistics that have earned her All-Jayhawk Conference and WCBA All-America nomination.
It is no surprise then that she has one triple double this season – 14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists against Westminster – and just missed triple doubles by one assist in one game and two rebounds or two assists in two others among her eight double doubles.
Because of her passing, which at times is show-stopping, no less than eight Lady Blue Devils are averaging seven or more points a game.
So what does she look at first when the stat sheets come out? “My turnovers,” she says, a department in which she also is the team leader although not unexpected considering Harbert handles the ball on almost every possession. “The first thing my dad asks when he calls is how many (assists) did I have but I want to get my assist-ratio down. Sometimes I’m too passive, I pass the ball too much. I see something and think something is there and it’s not. Also, coach says that I need to look to score more.”
“She’s done more than I anticipated,” says Stambersky, who kept a close eye on Harbert after seeing her as a sophomore. “She plays with an edge, something that’s hard to coach. Either you have it or you don’t. If there’s a weakness, it’s a tendency to overpass. Early in the season, she would take her shot when she had it (11.3 points per game) but kind of got tunnel vision looking for the assists. We talked about it and the second half of the conference season she’s back looking for more shots.”
It’s because of Stambersky that Harbert is at KCKCC.
“She saw me play in a tournament at Lawrence Free State as a sophomore and sent me a letter,” remembers Harbert. “Then she came to our game last year at SM East and I got to meet her in person and then came for a visit. The main reason I’m here is because of Coach Stambersky.”
Thus far the decision has been a good one for both parties. At 21-7, the Blue Devils have been ranked as high as No. 8 nationally although playing one of the toughest schedules. Five of the losses have been to teams in the Top Five nationally, one to No. 1 North Iowa and two each to No. 2 Highland and No. 4 Johnson County.
“The pace in college is so much different and talent-wise, there’s more than just one or two stars,” says Harbert. “They’re all athletic.”
The youngest of five, Harbert credits oldest brother Christian for being her mentor and teaching her how to shoot and her dad, Russell, on how to play the post.
“I was the tallest back then,” she says.
The other family members are her mother, Lisa; brothers Austin and Gage and sister Cassandra, a softball player McPherson. “Gage and I were the closest in age so we did everything together,” she notes.
Still five months from her 19th birthday, Harbert is a pre-dentistry major who compiled a 3.2 grade point the first semester.
While she much prefers an assist over a field goal, her No. 1 goal is continuing her basketball career at a higher level. “Hopefully Division I,” she says.
PHOTO: Kansas City Kansas Community College point guard Cassidy Harbert not only leads the Jayhawk Conference in assists with 6.67 per game but is third in steals at 3.3 per game. (Photo by Mark Greathouse).