Cathrine Kraayeveld’s basketball career boils down to an opportunity. Or, more specifically, making the most of that opportunity.
The Lake Washington High School 2000 graduate has gone from leading the Kangs through state tournaments to becoming a leader of the WNBA’s New York Liberty — and she’s cherishing every moment.
“I definitely don’t take it for granted,” Kraayeveld said. “Not many people get the opportunity to play and get to do what they love to do as a job.”
The biggest moment in Kraayeveld’s high school career came during Lake Washington’s run to the Class 4A state-title game her junior year in 1999, her first season with the team.
A transfer from Bellevue Christian, she led the Kangs to three close victories over Puyallup, Kent-Meridian and South Kitsap before earning a showdown with Prairie in the championship game. The Falcons took down Lake Washington 51-41 as the Kangs settled for second place.
Lake Washington returned to the state tournament Kraayeveld’s senior year and took fourth.
“It was pretty exciting to be able to go to the state tournament,” Kraayeveld said. “Of course, it would have been nice to win, but it was a good time and a lot of fun.”
After Lake Washington, Kraayeveld played at the University of Oregon. She cracked the starting lineup and began making an impact by her sophomore year. She led the Ducks in shooting percentage (.511) and blocked shots with 41 that season.
But Kraayeveld’s steady path to the pros took a slight detour in her junior year at Oregon. A staph infection in her knee sidelined Kraayeveld midway through the year, though she was able to return late in the season for a couple of games.
“It’s hard, but there’s not much you can do about it,” Kraayeveld said. “You just try to keep a good attitude and encourage teammates. Even though you can’t be on the court to help, you can help in other ways. You just have to work really hard and try to get back.”
Kraayeveld then hit another pothole when she tore the ACL in her right knee in the 2003-2004 season. She took a medical redshirt that season and was able to come back strong the next year.
She made the most of the chance and averaged 14.7 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game while making the All-Pac 10 First Team.
With that strong senior season behind her, the next step for Kraayeveld, a 6-foot-4 forward, was waiting for her name to be called in the WNBA draft.
“I don’t think I was nervous, I just wanted to know,” she said. “I just wanted to know where I’m going.”
The San Antonio Silver Stars selected Kraayeveld with the first pick in the third round (27th overall). But the match didn’t work out and Kraayeveld was cut by the Stars.
“In that moment I was disappointed. I felt like I was good enough to be on that team, it was just a situation of too many people and not enough room on the team to place me somewhere,” Kraayeveld said. “I knew it happened for a reason. I just went home and stayed in shape because I wanted to have the opportunity to play somewhere else. I’m happy that it happened.”
Kraayeveld got her opportunity midway through the 2006 season when the New York Liberty showed interest and signed her to a contract. She played in 17 games for the Liberty that year, averaging 4.1 points and 1.6 rebounds per game. Since then, Kraayeveld’s role on the team has grown into a starting spot.
The biggest reason for her growth from a third-round pick who didn’t even make her first roster to a starter in New York: confidence. Once comfortable with the team, things came easy.
“Every rookie is a little unsure of expectations from coaches and other teammates,” Kraayeveld said. “Once you get that chemistry together, you naturally fall into your role.”
This season, Kraayeveld leads the team in rebounds (5.9 per game) and is third in scoring (9.9 points per game).
Through June 7, New York sits at 3-4 good enough for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
Kraayeveld can’t get enough of basketball. She’s played in Europe the past two offseasons for a Belgian team. This offseason she will play for a Slovakian team. She said it’s a great opportunity to test her skills against different styles of play. Plus, she gets to travel around Europe, which is just another bonus.
“I want to play as long as I can, as long as my body will allow me, as long as I’m continuing to improve and as long as I’m having fun,” Kraayeveld said. “It’s definitely an honor and a privilege to be able to play in New York.”