When it comes to the game on the floor, Cassie Markle will do anything in her power to get in the way of an opponent — no matter the size, no matter the skill. That mentality is evident in every rebound, blocked shot and aggressive post move she makes when the Lady Raiders are in the heat of competition.
Fittingly, her ascension to a prominent role on the girls’ varsity basketball team at North Forsyth has been about not letting anything get in the way of her dream.
“I just want to play college basketball,” she said.
Markle has been playing the sport since before she can remember. She knows she played for Upward Sports basketball, a youth program that starts in elementary school, though she can’t recall many moments from that far back.
“I was just a little kid. At one point I fell in love with it. I just would get in the zone, loved running around and doing my thing,” Markle said.
But Markle has run into obstacles along the way. As a student at Horizon Christian Academy during her freshman season she finally got to step onto the floor in a varsity basketball game. She played up to her competition, further solidifying her mindset of wanting to become a star on the court. Then she faced a stressful decision.
“We kind of knew that we wouldn’t have a team the following year. There weren’t enough girls in the program — all of them were seniors. So if I stayed there I wouldn’t have been able to play varsity basketball,” Markle said.
In this day and age that may not be that big of a deal. Club basketball seasons have become a proving ground for kids looking to get attention and scholarships, and Markle has made rounds doing just that with the North Georgia Magic — a team that includes five of her current North teammates and four more that play for rival Lambert.
She still wanted to play basketball year-round, so she transferred to North to start her sophomore season. That transfer meant a lot — the transition from non-GHSA basketball to a program like the one run by head coach Eric Herrick would be difficult. North — as many in the county and surrounding regions of the GHSA know — has branded itself on trading in eye-popping talent with toughness, grit and relentless play.
Markle didn’t have a problem fitting in. Last season she earned significant playing time, starting and rotating off the bench at different points. Her youth was sometimes evident in the amount of fouls she committed, but on the same token her toughness became apparent. If North had a brand, she owned it as an underclassmen.
The physicality caught up with Markle this past offseason when her shoulder began to give her problems after dislocating it in the last game of the travel season with her club team. It seemed like a simple procedure and a little bit of time would fix the problem, but certain rotations and simple motions continued to cause pain.
She was sidelined for a significant amount of time in the volleyball season this fall, and then aggravated the injury against North Hall on Dec. 2.
After receiving second opinions, Markle found out she’d likely have to get surgery for what could be a torn labrum. The latest word from doctors was that there’s a 60 percent chance it’s a tear. Surgery would mean lost playing time, and Markle isn’t willing to give that up.
So instead, the determined junior has elected to play the rest of her junior season with the injury. It’s a play-by-ear approach that requires her communication with Herrick about pain. There’s a wince every time she blocks a shot, she says.
“That doesn’t stop me,” Markle said. “Coach says if I’m hurting I have to let him know.” She followed that statement with a concealed grin.
“I just have to deal with it,” Markle said. “I love basketball. No matter what’s going on I love getting to practice, getting on the floor and clearing my mind.”
At 5-foot-11, Markle knows she’s proving herself as a capable rebounder, shot blocker and scorer despite giving up an inch or two every once in a while to bigger players. She knows that means her skills simply stand out even more. She hopes that her production on the floor this season — with a shoulder strap and all — could lead to opportunities to achieve her dream of playing in college.
“I want to go somewhere, but somewhere small where I can continue to play,” Markle said. “Georgia College, Georgia Southern and Valdosta State are my options right now.
“Playing is what’s important to me. I want to be out there to help the team. I really like winning.”