By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Kali Peschel has been a basketball junkie for nearly as long as she can remember. “I remember watching basketball on TV and wanting to be on the screen playing with them,” said Kali.
The Peschels played basketball in the driveway and talked basketball a lot.
Don Peschel, Kali’s dad, was the head boys’ basketball coach in Sauk Centre when Kali was born. “When Kali was in second or third grade, she wanted to spend time with me and started hanging out at practice,” he said.
“When the boys’ team was short players, Kali played,” said Don.
“She thought it was normal to grow up in a gym,” said Kali’s mother Patty. “She hung out with the boys and played with them; she’d even get in the huddle at games.”
They all remember Kali coming home in fourth or fifth grade, with a notebook filled with analyses of the games she watched. It listed who needed to hustle more, what the players did right and what they did wrong.
“Once, when I was refereeing for a game, Kali didn’t think I made a very good call and started shouting at me and crying,” Don said. “I had to explain that she couldn’t holler at the ref.”
“She had a high basketball IQ at a very young age,” he said. “When you’re in the gym three to four days a week, you end up being a product of your environment.”
“One night the team was short, and she filled in,” he said. “She made a basket and the crowd thought it was cool.”
Kali was on her first girls team when she was in fourth grade; she played with the sixth grade traveling team.
By junior high, she was playing on an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team, practicing in the Twin Cities and playing around the country.
“Our family trips revolved around Kali’s AAU schedule,” said Don.
“We’ve taken vacation trips to Oregon, Oklahoma and Iowa to watch Kali play,” Patty said.
Don was the head coach only until Kali was in eighth grade. “I couldn’t watch Kali and coach the boys the way I wanted to,” he said.
“The window to watch your kids in high school — in theater, music, sports — is so small,” he said. “I didn’t want to miss that.”
Excelling at basketball didn’t come without sacrifices, though. “I was in dance and gave it up,” Kali said. “And because of summer practices in the Cities and spending the night there, I didn’t have social time with friends here.”
“But I have no regrets,” she said. “It paid off.”
Her sister Kelsey said, “I want to be like her when I get older, how good she is at basketball.”
An unanticipated challenge caught Kali when she suffered a knee injury in June 2011. She wasn’t able to play volleyball for Sauk Centre at all during her senior year, and missed 21 basketball games.
“But I learned how to work hard and come back off an injury,” she said. “I was able to play four regular season games and seven playoff games after coming back.”
“During the time I was out, I watched, and it helped me to see better what to do and what not to do on the floor,” said Kali. “I learned to not take little things for granted.”
“It’s sometimes hard being the coach’s daughter,” said Patty. “But Kali did learn never to give up.”
“The highlight of my basketball career so far was being able to play in the state championship game at Target Center in March,” Kali said.
Another memorable moment came during sixth grade when she was playing on the Alexandria Aces halftime performance team at a Denver Nuggets home game. She met Curly Neal of the Harlem Globetrotters and was one of two players chosen to perform alone with him.
Most people don’t know that the Peschel girls also excel at swimming. Kali was a swimmer first, before focusing on basketball. Kelsey is an excellent swimmer, but it looks like Victoria may be the champion.
Kali is now most looking forward to a new opportunity to play basketball. She has signed to play with the University of Iowa.
“Playing in the Big 10 was always a dream, and now I’ll be doing that,” she said.
“Playing overseas is another dream, but farfetched. I would like to play for a pro women’s league in Europe someday,” she said.
“It’s hard to have high school end,” Kali said, “but playing at state made it perfect.”