Huser headed overseas
By CONOR NICHOLL
By CONOR NICHOLL
VICTORIA — Shelly Huser and her daughter, Victoria High School senior point guard Kristin Huser, were each emotional wrecks after the Knights’ season-ending loss to Blue Rapids-Valley Heights on March 13.
Huser, the Knights’ four-year starter, a first team all-area selection and Fort Hays State University signee, had early foul trouble, but finished with 25 points and four assists in a 57-48 loss.
While Shelly tried to gather her emotions, her phone vibrated with texts from Fort Hays assistant women’s basketball coach Talia Miller asking for game updates, one of several things going on at once.
“My son is yelling at me wanting something, my phone is ringing because a mom needs to talk to me,” Shelly said.
Then, one of the Huser’s cousins passed along something else: Coach Mike Watkins, of USA Basketball, whom the family had never met, wanted to speak with the Husers.
After the defeat, a teary-eyed Huser hugged dozens of friends and family on court level. She received word from her mother that Watkins asked for the family. Huser quickly grabbed her things from the locker room and the family talked with Watkins.
“Just overwhelming,” Shelly said. “It was just a roller coaster day, for sure, but it’s just meant to be.”
A few days, phone calls and meetings later, Huser agreed to play for Watkins for the USA Athletes International team that will compete June 16 to 25 in Klagenfurt, Austria. Watkins called the tournament “the largest amateur event in Europe.”
The USAAI team includes Bucklin senior Morgan Hood, also an FHSU signee. USA will play against local club and national selection teams. It will be Huser’s first trip out of the country and the fifth time she’s ridden a plane.
“I didn’t say yes right away just because I had to take it all in,” Huser said. “It’s kind of a big deal. I am excited to play basketball and everything, but I am probably never going to go overseas again. I will be taking in both experiences at the same time.”
On Wednesday, Watkins presented Huser with two USA No. 5 jerseys in front of the Knights’ student body, teachers, administrators and family at the Victoria Auditorium.
At 3:26 p.m., Huser put on her jersey to a large round of applause. Huser is a teacher’s aide for Knights’ girls’ basketball coach Anne Dinkel, a Victoria kindergarten teacher. Right after the applause, the elementary students yelled, “Hip-Hip-Hooray!” three times and “Go Kristin!”
“It really meant a lot when they all did the three cheers,” Huser said.
Earlier in the day, Huser visited Dinkel’s classroom and the students surprised her with a booklet for the senior that she had at the ceremony.
“They just soak it all up,” Huser said.
Watkins, with five grown children and 14 grandchildren, has several decades of basketball coaching experience, especially at the elite summer level and with USA Basketball. Watkins lives in Hartford, about 20 miles from Emporia, and scours the country for his roster. Huser and Hood also will have teammates from Wichita, Utah and Illinois, among others. Watkins, who looks for talent and high-character kids, called Huser “extremely deserving.”
“Not heard one negative thing — not one,” Watkins said. “Boy, can she play.”
Huser’s passion started at a young age. Once she was hold enough to walk, Huser shot on a little basketball goal that fit over the door. The basketball goal will be at Huser’s graduation ceremony.
Her father, Galen, still remembers his daughter getting upset when a passerby driver accidentally hit Huser’s Kansas State basketball and flattened it.
They bought Huser a new ball, but it wasn’t the same one. Galen kept Kristin competitive.
“I would never let her win,” he said. “That made her work harder and harder.”
Early on, Kristin attended camps and played in the summer.
She was a Fort Hays ball girl for many years, even sat on the bench for games, and had a longtime dream to play for Fort Hays. Some Tigers signed Huser’s shoes and Huser has attended some weddings of former FHSU women’s players.
“I knew she had the talent and the drive,” Shelly said.
Watkins knew of Huser, but didn’t get to make contact with the family until state. He was supposed to go to Hays and watch Hood in the 1A, Division II tournament, but his wife was sick, so he stayed close to home and went to Emporia.
Huser collected her third foul with 3 minutes, 51 seconds remaining in the first half and sat until the break. But she scored six points immediately after intermission to spurt a 9-2 run and give the Knights a 26-25 lead.
She eventually finished with a terrific performance and impressed Watkins, who wanted to see her in tough situations. Huser, who averaged double figures each season with the Knights, continually took the ball right at Valley Heights.
“She is a play-through type player,” Watkins said. “She doesn’t play around other players, that’s right up my alley. We are not going to play dirty, but we are going to play aggressive. We are going to be intense.”
After Victoria loss and the family meeting, Watkins had a couple of phone conversations with Shelly, and then traveled to Hays to watch Bucklin play in the third-place game March 15. Following Bucklin’s game, the Husers and Hoods met Watkins at McDonald’s and discussed the team. Hood’s parents are planning on making the trip. All the players will have to pay their own way and/or raise fundraising money.
“A little nervous at first, but it’s so nice knowing that Morgan’s mom and dad both are going and we have met Morgan’s mom and dad, so that’s kind of a relief knowing that she knows them,” Shelly said. “It’s people from Kansas, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her. It’s something she has to do.”