Sydney Andersen was just a toddler when her father, Jack, bought her a Little Tykes basketball hoop.
At age 2, Sydney started honing her basketball skills. At age 4, she started playing on various children's teams, her mother Kellie said.
And now as an eighth-grader at , there isn't a day that goes by that Sydney does not have a basketball in her hands, according to mom.
It's not surprising, then, that Sydney sailed easily through each stage of the Knights of Columbus' Annual Free Throw Championship to eventually snag the prize in her 13-14 girls age group in March. From the back in January, through in Puyallup to in Burien and then state in Yakima, Sydney continued to take the top spot, and she continued to dissuade her mother, Kellie, from attending.
She was afraid mom might jinx her, but "I was chomping at the bit," recalled Kellie. "I wanted to go and she was like 'no mom.'"
So Kellie settled for watching the Enumclaw Hornets select team that Sydney plays on -- it was the first game she'd missed after playing with the Hornets for three years -- while dad Jack took Sydney to the competition.
"Fifteen minutes through the first game, he [Jack] sent me a text with a picture of 'your state champion,'" Kellie said.
No Father-Daughter Dances
The bond through basketball with dad Jack was formed early. When asked who was the bigger basketball fan in the house, Sydney was quick to reply her father was.
Jack enjoys watching all basketball, said Kellie, while she prefers watching youth basketball and women's teams. "I always think it's more fun when you're watching your own child," Kellie said. An ideal day is when the whole family can watch one of Sydney's select team tournaments, she said. "We have a lot of fun and have met a lot of great people."
The Little Tykes hoop in the family backyard aside, Jack jokes that "instead of father-daughter dances, we'd go to [Seattle] Storm games."
Over the course of following the Storm, Sydney said her favorite player was Lauren Jackson -- not the least of which is because like Jackson, Sydney plays post. Playing shooting guard would be fun too, she said.
She Got Game
These days, Kellie wasn't exaggerating when she said Sydney has a basketball in her hands seven days a week. Between playing for her middle school team, on her Enumclaw Hornets select team - now complete, on her new Emerald City Basketball Association (ECBA) select team and at various camps over the course of the year, Sydney is practicing, running drills or playing in games every day of the week.
It is a given that she'll be looking to play for Enumclaw High School next year, and according to mom, Sydney is excited to be able to play under coach Beth Madill.
Madill had been Sydney's P.E. teacher and had worked with her in basketball camps in the past.
Balancing school work and basketball has not been a problem for Sydney to this point and even as she enters high school, she's got her eyes on the prize.
Sydney said she hopes to play college basketball at the University of Washington. Not only does she plan to don purple and gold, it looks like hospital scrubs -- whatever color they be -- are also in her future.
"I want to be a trauma surgeon," she said of her chosen career.
Kellie has no doubt she'll get there. "She's a hard worker. ... She has fabulous grades. I couldn't ask for a better daughter. She's just a really good girl."
Well...it wasn't all straight A's, Sydney said. She did get a B in her latest report card.
Math, she admits. Not her favorite subject.
"I know what your favorite subject is," Kellie said. "P.E."
No arguments there.
More on Knights of Columbus
The Knights of Columbus Free Throw Championship is sponsored annually, with winners progressing through local, district, and state competitions. After the state level, the winners are entered into a drawing based on final shooting scores where an international champion will be selected, according to Sacred Heart Knights of Columbus Council spokesperson George Rossman.
In her age group, Sydney hit 18 of 25 free throw shots to take the prize, she said.
The Sacred Heart group is a relatively new council of the Knights of Columbus, said Rossman, and the free throw contest was one way to help introduce the Knights of Columbus to the community, Rossman said.
The Knights of Columbus is an international Catholic family fraternal service organization that promotes charitable and benevolent causes, sponoring projects to benefit their church, councils, communities, families and youth.