Cathrine Kraayeveld knows adversity.
She was drafted in the third round of the 2005 WNBA Draft, one of the happiest moments of her life. She was so thrilled to be heading to the San Antonio Silver Stars.
And then, before ever playing a game, she was cut.
Kraayeveld climbed back into the WNBA's consciousness and eventually was picked up as a free agent by the New York Liberty halfway through the 2005 season. She hasn't missed a game since.
"To have that second chance? A lot of people don't get that," said Kraayeveld, now with the Chicago Sky. "I'm just really fortunate to be able to play and continue playing."
It's interesting. After getting cut and clawing her way back into the league, Kraayeveld has played in 187 WNBA games and many more overseas during the WNBA offeseason. She has scored more than 1,500 points in the WNBA and has become one of the top 3-point shooters in the league.
It all came to be because she took advantage of a second chance.
Kraayeveld, now 29, is 6-foot-3 and comes from an athletic family, but she sees a lot in her story that any young girl can learn from. During the 2011 NBA All-Star weekend, Kraayeveld flew to Los Angeles to participate in the Hears Shooting Stars competition at Staples Center alongside Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson and former Bulls standout Steve Kerr.
During an appearance at the NBA Jam Session that weekend, Kraayeveld stopped to talk to iHoops.com about her career and what young girls can learn from her rise to the top of women's basketball.
When did you start playing basketball? When did you realize that it could be something you could do at a high level?
I started playing around 6. I had a lot of fun with it. I loved being active, out and about. I think probably in high school was when I started to think that I could go to college and maybe beyond that. I was fortunate and blessed to be able to do that.
You signed with the University of Oregon. What was the biggest adjustment from high school to college?
The quickness of the game and how much stronger and faster everybody is. Everyone says it, but it's true. Until you get to that college level and you're working out as much as you do in the offseason and during the extra workouts in the spring and fall, you don't really understand. In high school, you're just having fun and enjoying it. I always did extra stuff on my own with shooting and stuff, but when you get to college you work on ALL the little things and building your strength and stuff. That's probably the biggest adjustment.
I think it's different now from when I was in high school (in the late 1990s). Players are lifting more, doing a lot of that stuff, which is great. It gives you a huge head start in continuing to pursue your dreams.
Most young girls playing basketball aren't the most athletic, or tallest, or strongest. What advice do you have for them?
If you aren't one of those top-caliber athletes, you have to take one thing you're good at and really excel and improve in that. It's important to be a complete player, but if you can be really good at one thing--maybe you're a great defender--people are going to see that and that could take you to higher places. Take advantage of the skills you have.
You're known in the WNBA as being a good shooter. What do you try to keep in mind when working on your shot?
My biggest things are always to hold your follow-through, and really use your legs. You can really have a strong upper body, but your legs and your core are your most powerful assets as a player.
What do you do in the offseason to stay in shape and keep your spot in the WNBA?
I play overseas. I was overseas from September to December. This year, I decided to come back earlier. I've always taken a little bit of a break but this year I decided to take a longer one. I've always done my own workouts at home during those breaks. They've really helped me stay on top of my game. I take it very seriously. Those workouts at home have gotten me where I'm at. I'm not the biggest or strongest, but I take a lot of pride in how hard I work.
What advice would you have for young girls who want to play college basketball or professional basketball someday?
First of all, go out and have fun and really enjoy it. That was my biggest thing. I always loved playing and I still do. It's not really a job for me. It's a great opportunity and a blessing to go play. I'd tell young girls to have fun and enjoy it while you're young and take advantage of the opportunities that you have. Find different activities and programs you can get involved in any way you can to help yourself progress and pursue your dreams.