Since she was the leading scorer on Beaufort Academy's girls basketball team as an eighth-grader, people have expected big things from Caitlyn Cooler on the basketball court.
And Cooler has delivered more often than not.
In the midst of her junior season at Thomas Heyward Academy -- she transferred from Beaufort Academy for her sophomore year -- Cooler is one of the key players on a Rebels team with serious aspirations of winning a SCISAA Class 2-A title.
She has earned personal accolades, as well -- on Friday, she surpassed 1,000 points for her career, and she did it against her former team.
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The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet caught up with Cooler this week to reflect on the milestone, speculate on the Rebels' title hopes, and find out about her favorite hunting and fishing tales.
Question: You passed 1,000 points for your career last Friday. Has the magnitude of that milestone sunk in yet?
Answer: It has, and it was exciting. I've really been wanting to do it. One of my main goals since I was in the sixth grade was to score 1,000 points in my varsity career, and it's pretty exciting. I'm just ready to keep going.
Q: You reached the milestone against Beaufort Academy, which is where you started your career. Was it more meaningful for you to get it against your former team?
A: Yes, it was. It was really good timing, and it was really fun. I think it made it more enjoyable to get it then than it would've any other game. It's kind of a big rivalry between the two schools, and last year we didn't get to play them after I changed schools. It was more meaningful to me.
Q: When you think back to playing varsity at Beaufort Academy as an eighth- and ninth-grader, how has your game evolved since then?
A: I feel like there's not as much pressure as there used to be when I played there, and I feel like I'm more aware of what's going on, more mature with the game.
Q: On those teams at Beaufort Academy, you were the star and really had to carry the scoring load, even as an eighth-grader. Now you play on a team where there really isn't a star, and any one of five or six players can lead the team in scoring every night. Was that a difficult adjustment?
A: It was sort of difficult, but it's also a lot easier, because it relieves the pressure. When you have a team that's not just dependent on one person, it makes it easier for everybody.
Q: Most of the girls on your team also play softball together. How does playing two sports together help you guys succeed?
A: We know each other, so when you know your teammates, you know basically what they're going to do. That helps. We're also really close friends, and most of us do everything together. Sometimes, even though we do get in little fights, we always end up picking ourselves right back up. We're a really good team together.
Q: You guys have been ranked in the top three in SCISAA Class 2-A for most of the season, and you've had a couple of close games with top-ranked Bible Baptist. How would you rate your chances of winning a state title?
A: I think we have a very good chance, honestly. I think we have a few more things we need to overcome before then, but I think we'll get there, and I hope we see Bible Baptist for the championship game.
Q: If that happens and you do get to play Bible Baptist again, what do you guys have to do to get over the hump and beat them?
A: We have to slow things down some and not freak out as much on the court. Sometimes when we get under pressure, we tend to freak out, and we just need to slow things down and play our game, and not play their game.
Q: You want to play college basketball. In what areas do you feel you need to improve to achieve that goal?
A: I need to work on not getting so mad at myself and so down, and I also need to work hard on my left hand. Just ball control and trying to see more on the court, those kinds of things. And my shot. You always have room to improve your shooting.
Q: I'm told you don't confine yourself to traditional sports like basketball and softball. Are you kind of an outdoorswoman, if you will?
A: Yeah. I love to go fishing and hunting and all of that. Fishing is definitely my favorite, but I like hunting, also. I like deer hunting.
Q: Hunters and fishermen are known for telling tales of their kills and catches. What are your best hunting and fishing memories?
A: I have a funny story. It was two seasons ago, and me and my boyfriend were hunting together, and this big 8-point buck walked out. I was freaking out. I was scared to death. I took a shot at it, and I missed. Then my boyfriend took the gun, and he shot it and killed it. I was so mad at myself for missing that shot. It was pretty funny, though.