Cross talks size, season and jokes

Junior+guard+Naddiyah+Cross+of+the+Kent+State+womens+basketball+team+communicates+with+her+teammates+in+overtime+during+the+game+against+Robert+Morris+University+game+at+the+M.A.C+Center+on+Saturday%2C+Nov.+19%2C+2016

Junior guard Naddiyah Cross of the Kent State women’s basketball team communicates with her teammates in overtime during the game against Robert Morris University game at the M.A.C Center on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016

Henry Palattella

The Kent State women’s basketball season is underway, and the Flashes have jumped out to a 2-1 record. One of the reasons the Flashes have captured this early season success is because of the play of junior point guard Naddiyah Cross.

Cross is averaging eight points, 6.3 assists and two steals per game. The Kent Stater’s Henry Palattella caught up with Cross Thursday to talk about the season thus far.

HP: You guys started the season with two wins for the second year in a row, but this year you won your first two games by large margins. How is this different from last year?

NC: It’s a whole new year, that’s for one, and the margin of victory just speaks to our work ethic. We have a lot that we actually still need to improve on — especially in the third quarter; We’re all watching film and looking for better ways to improve that.

HP: You had 18 assists through three games compared to 15 shots, do you pick and choose your shots, or is it more you looking for a pass as soon as you cross half court?

NC: That stat just goes to our point guard coach Morgan Toles. In preseason we just went through a lot of cone drills and passing drills. It wouldn’t help my team if I turned it over a lot, so it’s just really to my advantage to make sure that I can see the open person. And when it’s not there, then I’m looking for what I can do to try to make a play.

HP: You’re listed at 5’6″, which is tied for shortest on the team. Has it been like that since you started playing basketball?

NC: Surprisingly, no. In middle school I was one of the taller people; I even jumped for the jump ball — I got it every time, in case you were curious. I had hops before I tore my Achilles; I was up there. Then when I got to high school, the girls were gigantic. It didn’t really make much of a difference to the style of play that I did, I just had to improve different things. I had to improve shooting and ball handling compared to rebounding.

HP: Does Coach Starkey say ‘if you can’t get your shot, then it’s okay to look for a pass,’ or does he want more scoring offensive out of the point guard position?

NC: Coach wants more leadership and enthusiasm in any way that you can contribute it. So if I can’t read what’s happening on the defense, that doesn’t help our team. He looks more for understanding any play calls I can go to or who our hot hand is. Not exactly who gets to shoot (and) when.

HP: The fans have really showed up this year. Has their presence motivated you to play better?

NC: Yeah, just gratitude toward them. There are a few fans who have been here since my freshman year to now, and I can only be very thankful to those who came. Also, the fans who have come out to see what we’re all about this year who have never come to watch a women’s basketball game before, but they’re out here to watch.

HP: Do you have a favorite chant that they do?

NC: I can’t hear the chants when I’m on the court, but the band gets me really hype before the game.

HP: On the Kent State student roster, your name is listed as “Kailyn-Naddiyah Cross,” is there a story behind that?

NC: I do have two first names. When I was born my mom named me Naddiyah and somewhere down the line my dad was like ‘all of our kids need to have K names, let’s have them all start with the same letter.’ Naddiyah seems to be pretty unique and everyone sticks with that

HP: Who on the team would you take in a dunk contest? What about in a three-point contest?

NC: I would take (senior) Chelsi Watson in a dunk contest. She can actually touch the rim. She could probably dunk a tennis ball. She jumps up and grabs the rim for fun. Oh gosh, a three-point contest is tough. We actually have some surprisingly good shooters. Ali (Poole), Larissa (Lurken), Lex (Alexa Golden) actually. Megan (Carter) is pretty smooth. I would probably wanna see Larissa and Ali go against each other.

HP: What is your favorite part of Kent?

NC: I love Kent, surprisingly. I’ve grown up in Ohio, and you think growing up in Ohio ‘i’ve got to get out I’ve got to get out.’ But I came up here and it’s a whole different atmosphere than the south of Ohio. The black squirrels are a little weird. They’re ruthless; they don’t move.

Henry Palattella is a sports reporter, contact him at [email protected]