Charli Becker declines to give a lengthy explanation as to what prompted her sudden change of heart. Instead, the recent Tivy graduate only needs six words to adequately answer the question.
What made her decide that she wanted to play college basketball after all? Becker simply turns toward her longtime friend, Catherine Kaiser, and smiles.
“Well, Catherine decided to annoy me,” explained Becker, laughing.
“I didn’t annoy you!” Kaiser replied.
Neither friend is lying. In a way, Kaiser really did annoy her former Tivy teammate. Everyone else had accepted Becker’s decision not to continue playing basketball in college (Her original plan was to just attend Texas A&M as a regular student). Well, everybody except Kaiser. Kaiser had been watching Becker do amazing things with a basketball since they were in the seventh grade; she wasn’t going to allow her friend to give up the sport after high school.
“Charli is too good not to be playing in college,” Kaiser said.
From her perspective, she wasn’t pestering Becker. She was just doing everything in her power to help strengthen her future team. On April 17, the 6-foot, 3-inch center signed her letter of intent to play basketball at St. Edward’s University, a Div. II school in Austin. She then became one of the school’s most aggressive recruiters, trying her best to convince the two-time, all-state point guard to team up with her again at the college level. She eventually wore Becker down, persuading her to attend a St. Edward’s basketball camp on June 22. It was there that Becker realized Kaiser had been right all along: She wasn’t ready to stop playing basketball. On June 24, she committed to play at St. Edwards — a major victory for Hilltoppers’ coach J.J. Riehl.
“(Kaiser) was a really big sign for us,” Riehl said. It’s been a long time since we have had a true post presence with the potential of Catherine. We were ecstatic to sign her, and then to get the added bonus of Charli a few months later was unbelievable. … Honestly, I think Catherine had a lot to do with it.
“We are just thrilled beyond measure. I don’t know what else to say. They are both great kids and they both come from a great program. They already have a tremendous relationship and work really well together. And I think they are both going to have an immediate impact here at St. Edwards.”
They certainly impacted the Kerrville basketball scene during their four years at Tivy. Both Becker and Kaiser were key contributors on some of the best basketball teams in Tivy history, helping the Lady Antlers advance to the state semifinals during the last two years (They only lost nine times in their final 79 games at Tivy). Kaiser controlled the paint her senior year, averaging 8.3 points per game and a team-highs 5.7 rebounds per game. Her performance during the region IV tournament at the Blossom Athletic Center propelled the Lady Antlers to the state semifinals. She splashed the go-ahead triple during Tivy’s 70-62 over Victoria West in the regional semifinals, helping the Lady Antlers overcome an 11-point fourth quarter deficit. She then led the Lady Antlers with 12 points during their 44-34 victory over Veterans Memorial in the Region IV championship.
Becker, meanwhile, led the Lady Antlers in scoring (15.3 points per game) and assists (3.9), while wowing everyone who watched her play. As a four-year starter at Tivy, she relentlessly sliced through the lane for layups, forced steals, extended possessions by grabbing offensive rebounds and dished passes that most other high school players wouldn’t even dare to make.
Tivy coach Christy Dill called her a “once-in-a-lifetime” type of player. During halftime of the regional final, a San Antonio newscaster approached Kerrville Daily Times Photo Editor Tom Holden and remarked, “I have never seen someone play the way (Becker) does.”
“There’s an edge to her, an attitude and an aura about her in how she plays that you don’t see all the time,” Riehl said. “It’s hard to describe the way she carries herself. I don’t know if there’s an actual word.”
Understandably, Riehl and her coaching staff expressed interest in Becker early in the year, but stopped recruiting her once she informed them that she didn’t plan on playing in college.
They convinced Kaiser to sign, though, and that’s what ultimately spurred the chain of events that led to Becker’s commitment. Once Kaiser coaxed Becker into attending a St. Edward’s camp, the latter immediately began impressing Riehl. At one point during the camp, Riehl made the girls run sprints. The coach noticed that whenever Becker touched the baseline and turned, she always looked over her inside shoulder to see who was ahead of her in the sprint. She then made an effort to pass those players the next time she sped down the court.
“I think that gave me a glimpse into just how competitive of a kid she is,” Riehl said. “Most times when kids run lines, they are just competing against the clock. They are just trying to get done before the clock reaches zero so they don’t have to run it again. But Charli’s mentality was totally different. She was
running the lines and wanted to win.”
Riehl witnessed that same mentality again when Becker scrimmaged against some of the current players at St. Edward’s. Becker later complained that she missed too many layups during the pickup game (“It was really embarrassing,” Becker said), but Riehl had a different impression from the scrimmage. She was amazed at Becker’s court vision, her ability to find Kaiser in the paint and her ability to push the ball up the court during fast breaks.
“You don’t look like someone who doesn’t enjoy the game,” Riehl later told Becker. “You look like someone who is out there to compete and win.”
Turns out, Riehl was right. After the camp, Becker spent some time with her future teammates at Lady Bird Lake. That also helped her decision to play college basketball.
“It was nice; I got to go with the lake with them so I got to know the players,” Becker said. “At least I know who I am going to play with and that I enjoy being around (my future) teammates.”
She’s already feeling that itch to compete again. Becker and Kaiser fell just shy of winning a state championship at Tivy. Becker sprained her ankle the Monday before Tivy’s state semifinal contest (She still played, but it was evident that the injury bothered her throughout the game). Fellow all-state guard Audrey Robertson landed awkwardly on her right foot during the first quarter of Tivy’s 34-28 loss to Frisco Liberty in the state semifinals and didn’t return. The two injuries ultimately cost Tivy its best chance to win its first state title in 49 years.
Becker and Kaiser, however, are hoping for another opportunity to compete for a championship at St. Edward’s.
“Hopefully we can finally get a ring,” Kaiser said. “We are supposed to be really to good. … I am super excited about next year.”
Her new basketball coach feels the same way.
“They are definitely really good pieces for us,” Riehl said. “You want to find freshman and four-year kids who you can build around and be the nucleus of the program. I think we did that with Catherine and Charli.”