Jamie Kissinger remembers glancing into the stands during a tournament in Chicago and recognizing Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma.
Moments like that while traveling the AAU circuit are exhilarating. At the time, Kissinger's Cornhusker Shooting Stars Bison team was beating one of the tournament favorites.
But playing in front of big-name college coaches can sometimes be deflating. Have a bad game, Kissinger said, and a college opportunity could be lost.
Kissinger and twin sister Brooke don't need to worry about that anymore.
The seniors-to-be from Minden, Neb., have committed to Division I schools. Brooke, a 5-foot-8 guard, is headed to Illinois next year. Jamie, a 5-9 guard and forward, will play for San Diego.
“Now,” Jamie said, “we're able to just go out and play and worry about just winning the game and doing our best instead of worrying about who is watching.”
Coaches have had their eyes on the Kissinger twins for years. The girls started getting letters from colleges in eighth grade. Schools such as Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Boston College, Colorado and Nebraska, among others, have been in touch over the years.
Their father, Brian Kissinger, always told his girls how exciting it was to play in college. As a 6-5 forward, he scored 1,222 points for the University of Nebraska at Kearney after starring at Sandy Creek. The twins' brother, Derek, already has gotten a taste of playing at Hastings College, where he will be a sophomore guard.
Brian Kissinger got the girls started playing hoops in first grade, and they've been making the two-hour drive to Lincoln for practices with the Shooting Stars two or three times a week since the summer after fifth grade.
It just became their routine, Jamie said, one they grew to love. “We both really wanted to do it,” Brooke said.
Brooke's goal has always been to play for a BCS school. Jamie was always more worried about finding the right academic fit.
Fulfilling those dreams took hard work and determination. lots of it, Brooke said.
Summers have been pretty much taken up with basketball, traveling across the country to play other top teams in front of hordes of college coaches. This month, they'll play in Cincinnati, Chicago, Kansas City and Augusta, Ga. Friday, the Bison were in the midst of an 11-hour bus ride to Cincinnati.
“I've really gotten used to it,” Brooke said. “I have better friends here than in my hometown, because I'm with these guys more.”
Their first season with the Bison, the Shooting Stars' top team, was a tough one. They were freshmen playing against bigger, better and older girls. But they've grown into stalwarts for the Bison, whose roster includes Lincoln Southeast's Jess Shepard, who will play at Nebraska, and Shelby-Rising City's Chatrice White, who like Brooke is headed to Illinois.
Although twins, the Kissingers aren't identical. In fact, their personalities are quite different, coach Dan Lesoing said.
Jamie is the one getting the rebounds and diving on the floor after balls. The dirty work, Lesoing calls it.
“Brooke is a great shooter and a great scorer,” Lesoing said. “She creates her shot and looks to shoot. She's getting to be a really good passer, too.
“Jamie is always getting her hands on the ball. She's a good offensive player, but she doesn't look to score as much as Brooke.”
Brooke averages 12 points a game for the Bison. Jamie is at about eight.
Brooke is a bit more athletic, which is why she has the chance to play at a BCS school, Lesoing said. Jamie is more consistent.
“Coaches weren't drawn to Jamie at first glance. All the talented players we have, Jamie was overlooked a lot,” Lesoing said. “She always makes the good shot, gets the good rebounds. She's always on the floor.”
Brooke decided to sign with Illinois in the spring. Jamie made her decision just a few weeks ago.
Brooke wasn't worried about her sister's prospects. Jamie had decided long ago she wouldn't decide until after her junior year. Brooke wanted to make an earlier decision so she could just relax and play basketball.
Jamie has always been more serious.
“When their parents let them go shopping, they give Jamie the credit card and tell Jamie what they can spend,” Lesoing said. “Jamie is kind of the mom of the two.”
The sisters have talked about how strange it will seem to play on different teams after high school. They've always done everything together.
“I've played with her my whole life,” Brooke said. “I know where she's at on the court pretty much at all times. It will be difficult. But it's part of growing up.”