Kristie Kalis, a self-proclaimed basketball fanatic, was “on call” the other day.
A teammate needed her expertise. Needed her tutelage. Needed her to break down a play.
Thus, during a free period, the two got together for a huddle in one of the conference rooms in the library at New Trier High School.
“I was a little confused about a play we were running,” said the teammate, fellow senior Katherine Gjertsen, who will play college lacrosse at Stanford University. “So, she sat me down and diagrammed the play for me on a whiteboard [wall].”
No doubt, K-squared, known for her basketball smarts, lit up at the opportunity to arrange and rearrange a few X’s and a few O’s. Kalis picked up a black magic marker, drew a court on the whiteboard and turned into a teenaged Teri Rodgers.
And that’s exactly what Gjertsen loves about Kalis.
“She’s got great game sense,” said Gjertsen. “She’s so smart on the court. She always knows what to do and where she’s supposed to be.
“She loves the game of basketball,” the teammate added. “And she’s 100 percent about the team.”
Kalis also is known for her patience and persistence. Last year was a little tough at times for the slender 5-foot-10 guard.
“She didn’t get much playing time last year,” said Gjertsen. “But she embraced her role as a bench player.”
Rodgers, New Trier’s highly successful coach, went even further. In her mind, Kalis is The Perfect Example. She’s Exhibit A.
“I’ll be talking about Kristie Kalis for a long time,” said Rodgers. “I’ll always be able to point to her as that player. She went from someone who didn’t play at all [as a junior] to being a key player [as a senior].
“She’s giving other players in our program hope,” the coach added. “They can say: ‘If I put in the work, I can do what she’s doing.’ ”
What Kalis did on Dec. 6 in Park Ridge was pretty special. In helping her team defeat host Maine South 51-31, she was the unofficial “Player of the Game” with a 13-point, six-rebound, three-assist, two-block and one-turnover performance.
“I won’t lie to you,” said Kalis, firmly entrenched in NT’s starting lineup and averaging 7.7 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. “At first, it was really hard [to sit the bench] last year.
“But you want the team to succeed, and so you go as hard as you can in practice and try to make everyone better,” Kalis added. “We had five amazing starters on that team. Watching them play every day made me a smarter player. A better player.”
Last year’s squad at New Trier was an all-star cast with four of them moving on to the next level: Jeannie Boehm (Harvard), Haley Greer (Colgate), Kathryn Pedi (Holy Cross) and big sis Autumn Kalis (Carthage).
“She’s been filling some pretty big shoes this year,” said Gjertsen.
In addition to being an intense, top-notch defender, Kalis has developed into a go-to offensive player along with Cate and Maggie Murdock.
The kid can light it up. She is shooting 56 percent from the field, including 38 percent from three-point distance (20-53).
She’s had a little help along the way. Back in the day, her dad, Scott Kalis, was a deadeye shooter for the University of Tennessee-Martin.
Thus, words like “Keep your elbow in” are imprinted in her mind and in the minds of her two sisters, Autumn, who is averaging 8.8 points per game for Carthage this winter, and Jessica, a promising 5-9 starting guard on the NT sophomore team. Thanks, Dad.
So, if you guessed that basketball would be a popular topic of conversation around Kalis dinner table, you would be right.
Pickup games and one-on-one battles in the driveway also are commonplace. Kristie especially likes to match up against Autumn on the local asphalt.
“We start out just messing around. But it always gets really competitive,” she said.
“She used to always beat me. But the tables have been turned a little,” the middle child added. “I know exactly how she plays.”
Kristie Kalis’ love affair with basketball runs deep. She’d like to join her sister in the college ranks.
“I definitely want to keep playing,” said Kalis, who plays her club basketball with Full Package. “I love the energy of this game.”
And she likes the way New Trier (10-8, 2-3) has regrouped of late. Before losing to Marist 65-42 in the Fremd Shootout on Jan. 7, the Trevians had won four of five games, including a 57-51 win over Fenwick in the fifth-place game of the Dundee-Crown Christmas Tournament.
“I think we finally realized that we can win games,” said Kalis. “New Trier has one of the best programs in Illinois. We’ve accomplished so much.
“So, we aren’t OK with losing,” she added.