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Up for the challenge

by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor

Kaylee Krysztof is always up for a challenge.

Playing on the Depew High School varsity basketball team as a seventh grader, Krysztof has been used to the high expectations that come with her game. A game that she has worked on since at a very young age.

As she has moved up the ranks at Depew, Krysztof’s game as continued to improve. It’s something that she takes pride in. Krysztof could easily rest on her morals and just go out there and do the same thing game in and game out.

But, that wouldn’t be her style. She wants to evolve into the best basketball player she can be.

“Yes, as I continue to work on my game I’m finding that I’m a bigger offensive threat than I had thought. Many coaches don’t just label me as a shooter, because I am more than that,” stated Krysztof. “But, I can also set my teammates up, so not being one dimensional is what helps to make me a tough player to guard. I have been working on many aspects of my game this offseason, and my goal for this upcoming high school season is to display all that I have worked on.”

Krysztof’s offseason is like a normal offseason. If she isn’t playing hoops for the Wildcats, she is lacing up her sneakers and playing for her travel AAU team. There, she is going up against some of the best players in the country.

Playing AAU allows her to work on certain aspects of her game that she might not though she needed to work on. There are times Krysztof cane dominate a high school game for Depew, but she wants to see if she can do it on a national level. With colleges coaches looking on.

That’s where the real pressure is. Being able to perform on the biggest stage, when other coaches are looking top recruit her.

“During AAU I was told by my coach Randy Wright that the July live periods were going to be way different from any other game I’ve played. He wanted us to be prepared for 20+ coaches watching our every move,” stated Krysztof. “But if I’m being honest, I could hardly tell the difference. Playing throughout July to me was no different from any other game, I was able to play my game without getting nervous on who was watching me. I think this was part of the reason my summer was so successful. However my parents were very much into seeing who was there. After a game, my mom would come up to me and show me zoomed in pictures of a logo on a coaches shirt to try and decipher which school they were from.”

Krysztof’s game has taken off, and so has her recruiting. She has gone on a few visits, and it has ticked up quickly. Early on it was something that Krysztof had to try and manage. She was surprised about all the attention that she was receiving.

But, that’s what happens when you have a solid summer travel season. Coaches took notice of Krysztof’s game - and the rest is history.

“At first it was definitely overwhelming, I didn’t think I would spark up the amount of attention that I got as quickly as I did,” stated Krysztof. “Although, as time went on, it definitely got easier to manage these calls.”

Between recruiting, and school, it could be draining on a young person. There is a lot of talk about an athlete’s mental state - especially with covid over the past couple of years. It could be draining on an athlete as they try to navigate school with recruiting - and other responsibilities that come along with being a student-athlete.

“Maintaining confidence while playing is the biggest thing if you are trying to be a high level player. A lot of people struggle with different aspects of their game, and that’s because they don’t have confidence within themselves. You have to have the next play mentality. My dad always says if someone walked into the gym and saw you, they should not know if you made or missed your last shot,” explained Krysztof. “This has led me to showing little to no emotion on the court, because your mind is your worst enemy. I have had games where I haven’t shot the ball well, and I told myself “you’re done shooting, you're off, you can’t shoot the ball anymore.” But it’s a big help having teammates who tell you to keep shooting, because knowing they have faith in me gives me the confidence to keep shooting the ball.”

Keep shooting Krysztof has done.

She is deadly shooter from everywhere on the court. She can step out and hit the three. She ca hit the mid-range jumper. She can take the rock and drive to the lane. That’s what makes Krysztof so hard to guard against.

She just isn’t a one trick pony. She can do everything on the court - and do it well.

“Shooting has always been my strong suit. But there was definitely a point in time this summer when I didn't shoot the ball to my best ability,” stated Krysztof. “I think the hardest part of being a great shooter is having confidence to shoot. So when my shot was off one tournament right before the first live period, I went into the gym with my trainer and worked almost every weekday getting my shot back before the first live period started. I did long sessions where I would shoot upwards of 800 shots.”

When Krysztof isn’t shooting the rock 800 times, she will take her talents to the softball diamond in the spring. Before she was a talented basketball player, Krysztof was a stud on a softball diamond.

While she choose hoops over softball, Krysztof still enjoys getting out there with her friends and getting dirty on the diamond.

“Softball for me now is just a way for me to fill time without it having to be basketball. I do it for fun now, but basketball always comes first,” stated Krysztof. “Although I do enjoy playing this sport with my teammates there were a lot of times where I’d have to miss for basketball practice. But I do like having the balance of playing these in my life.”

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