WLHS basketball star Jessica Kuzmickas to play for Salem State

By Calla Vassilopoulos - ReminderNews
Windsor Locks - posted Wed., Apr. 17, 2013
Jessica Kuzmickas uses her ball-handling skills to make it down the court during a home game at Windsor Locks High School. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

Moving on to a new chapter in life can be scary, but for Jessica Kuzmickas, “exciting” is the first word that comes to mind.

Kuzmickas, currently a senior at Windsor Locks High School, recently made the decision to play basketball for Salem State University next fall.

Salem State, a Division III school, recently built a brand new athletic center and library, and has plans to put a CVS Pharmacy in the center of campus. These – along with its close proximity to Boston – are a few reasons why Kuzmickas chose this school to begin her college basketball career.

Kuzmickas was head captain of the WLHS girls’ varsity basketball team for the 2012-2013 season. The shooting guard and small forward scored a total of 300 points this past season. In three different games, she scored 17 points in the third quarter alone. She also led the team into states, scoring a career-high 33 points in the first game.

However, basketball did not always come naturally to Kuzmickas. When she began playing on a Parks and Recreation team in third grade, she said she did not know how to play.

“I was the worst one on the team,” said Kuzmickas.

Kuzmickas’ grandfather kept her interested in the game. He offered to pay for her to play if she could make the Connecticut Wave Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) club team. When she was in fourth grade, she tried out and made the team, where she continued to play through high school.

During her basketball career so far, Kuzmickas has grown into a star player for Windsor Locks. Kuzmickas said she used to struggle keeping confidence after a bad play, but eventually she learned that you have to keep your head together for the team and learn how to focus.

“I know my strengths now,” said Kuzmickas. “Coach taught me, ‘It’s always the next play, not the last.’”

A few of her proudest accomplishments include making the varsity team as a freshman, going to states all four years of high school, being named team MVP for the 2012-2013 season, and playing in the Nike tournament in Chicago with her AAU team.

“Jess truly loves the game of basketball, and she grew as a player over the last four years here at Windsor Locks,” said WLHS girls’ varsity basketball coach Doug Knowe. “She could always shoot, but this past season she worked hard in the off-season on the rest of her basketball skills. Salem State will be happy to have her in their program, and I’m sure she will make great contributions there over the next four years.”

Kuzmickas doesn’t expect to play a lot during her first year at Salem State, but plans on supporting her team and helping with defense. “I am excited to play against other players that have the drive I do,” said Kuzmickas.

Kuzmickas adopted #11 as her jersey number after attending the Next Level Basketball Camp in which UConn player Keisha Swanier was participating. Swanier and UConn’s Diana Taurasi were two players that Kuzmickas looked up to and whose careers she followed closely.

Kuzmickas has even begun to take after Swanier by helping younger players in Windsor Locks improve their basketball skills during her free time. Though she may not be able to keep #11 at Salem State, she is looking forward to playing with others who share the same love for the game that she has.

For Kuzmickas, the best parts of the game are the memories she has created, and the different people she has had the opportunity to meet over the years.

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