By MIKE MEILER
Niagara Gazette — It’s always been about size with Cassie Oursler.
At 6-foot-3, Grand Island’s girls basketball star has never had trouble scoring under the basket, particularly when the Vikings’ all-time leader in assists, Kallie Banker, was feeding her inside.
This year, though, Banker is off to Division I Rhode Island, and Oursler will have to adjust her game to have a successful senior season before she heads off to her own D-I school, Robert Morris.
“She has to be more active this year and do more because of Banker’s graduation,” GI athletic director Jon Roth said. “Kallie absorbed all the attention last year, and now because of our young guards, (Cassie) is going to be double- and triple-teamed.
“I think it’ll be better for her as long as she can create her own shots. Last year Kallie kind of gave her the good looks, and now she’ll have to learn how manufacture points.”
Oursler’s athleticism runs in the family. Her father, Chris, was an All-Western New York wide receiver for the Vikings in the late 1980s. Her uncle, Bobby, played football for Grand Island, as did her cousin Max. Her other cousin, Sam, is currently on the Vikings’ football team and spent a year on the basketball team.
“She’s long, where not only is she 6-foot-3, but she has long arms and long legs,” Roth said. “She’s very athletic, but I think her big asset is how she runs the floor. She gets a rebound, outlets it, and she can be the first to the other basket to score.”
Scoring is something Ourlser has had little trouble with this season. Though the Vikings (1-3, 1-1 NFL) aren’t off to the start their usually accustomed to, Oursler has found some personal success, scoring nearly 60 points in her last two games.
Because of the Vikings’ inexperience at guard, she’s had to adjust to creating more shots for herself. She said she’s been working on a few things in particular, including putting the ball on the floor and going left with more authority.
“I have to try out a bunch of different moves, and I’m working toward that,” she said. “I’ve been working on my left because people say I always goes right, so that’s been a big focus. ... I need to keep getting better at finishing when I get the ball, strong moves to the basket.
“I think it’ll help prepare me for college because I know it’ll be tougher all-around because defensively, teams are sending more girls at me and focusing on stopping me.”
“I’ve always told her to go to the next level she’s going to have to learn to put the ball on the floor both right and left and develop a consistent 10- to 15-foot jump shot,” Roth added. “We haven’t seen that on a consistent basis yet, but she’s a little more active this year and working on those things.”
The work she’s put into her game, coupled with the experience of being a four-year varsity starter and summers filled with AAU ball, earned Oursler the chance to play in Division I.
Grand Island’s coach, Jenepher Banker, says she can keep improving.
“She’s always had the size, but she’s working a lot harder this year,” she said. “She’s becoming a better leader and her effort has been a lot better this year.
“Down the road, she won’t have the opportunities (to score) she has at the high school level, but if she’s working hard, I think the sky’s the limit.”Follow high school sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.