COLUMBIA, Mo. (BVM) – Averi Kroenke has had a lot of special moments in her basketball career, but it is her senior season that keeps bringing new ones about time and again.
Currently, the Rock Bridge Bruins have just one loss on the season, sitting at 18-1. They have won many big games throughout the year, highlighted by a tournament victory in Naples, Florida, and are also ranked No. 25 nationally by ESPN.
“So far, we’ve had a really good start to our season,” Kroenke said. “We’ve played some really good teams this year but we’ve been able to grind out wins and make big shots when we need to. I’m super excited going down this final stretch, I think we have a really good shot at finally making it over the hump.”
A big reason for the success thus far for the Bruins is Kroenke. The versatile standout has played well all year, but has been especially hot as of late, averaging over 18 points per game down the final stretch of January. She has had some truly special performances including a 32-point effort against St. Thomas. She also recently hit the 1,000-point scoring mark for her high school career.
“It was really special, that’s a really big milestone in your high school career,” Kroenke said about becoming a 1,000-point scorer. “To get to do that in such a prestigious program was really special to me and I’m extremely thankful for that.”
With just over a month remaining in the high school basketball season, Kroenke hopes her team can go on a much-anticipated state run.
“I hope we get a chance at the final four and I think we have a really good shot but we’re going to have to beat some good teams to get there,” Kroenke mentioned. “I think it’s just important for us to focus on one game at a time.”
But it’s the closeness of this team that has led it to a special season so far, and Kroenke also believes that is what could ultimately take them to the top.
“We are just a really close-knit group,” Kroenke added. “We honestly all get along so well and I think that just really helps us on the court. I think we all are really good at buying in and playing really hard.”
A trip to state would be another highlight to an already remarkable career for the 17-year-old. Growing up, Kroenke was actually a competitive gymnast. However, that competitive fire soon turned to basketball.
“I have two older brothers, so they were always into basketball,” Kroenke said. “My dad kind of coached them growing up so I was always around it. I really liked the atmosphere around it and the competitive free-flowingness of it.”
By fourth grade, one of Kroenke’s first significant basketball achievements occurred, as she won a free-throw contest locally and got to compete at the national event in Springfield, Massachusetts.
“There is really when I was kind of like ‘OK, this is the path I want to take,’” Kroenke noted.
From there, Kroenke began playing travel basketball. Over the last few years, her game has grown by leaps and bounds playing with Missouri Phenom.
“Phenom was honestly the first big travel team I’ve played with and I’m really blessed that I got to be with them,” the Rock Bridge senior said.
Whether it was at the youth, AAU or high school levels, Kroenke has displayed strong ball handling, passing and defensive skills. At 5-foot-11, she has also displayed incredible versatility, being able to play any position on offense and guard nearly anyone on defense.
“My versatility really helps on offense and defense,” Kroenke said. “I think that’s a big part of my game.”
That versatility has been seen time and again throughout what has been a terrific career at Rock Bridge. While freshman year was a bit of a learning year for Kroenke in which she battled a few injuries as well, the Bruins still made it all the way to the state quarterfinals.
The winning culture took a step forward the following year. As Kroenke continued to emerge into an all-state player as a sophomore, the Bruins made it all the way to the final four. However, they never got a chance to play for a state title as the remainder of the season was canceled due to COVID-19.
A bitter ending to the 2019-20 season made Kroenke and her teammates realize how fast some things can be taken away and that they could not take anything for granted entering her junior year.
“I think the first thing all of us on the team who returned kind of realized was that we need to make the most of every day and every practice because it can be taken away,” Kroenke said. “We really just wanted to come back and get an opportunity to make it back to the final four.”
Kroenke came back with a vengeance, again being named an all-state performer as well as district and conference player of the year while averaging 17.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.0 steals per game. However, Rock Bridge came up short of the final four, losing to the eventual state champions in the quarterfinals.
Yet, the tough finishes are all part of what has set the stage for the special ride the Bruins continue to be on this season. All the pieces of the puzzle seem to be in place for a strong finish to the campaign, including having one of the most respected coaches in the area on their side in Jill Nagel.
“She is amazing,” Kroenke said. “I cannot say enough good things about Coach Nagel. She is able to balance keeping serious and working really hard while being focused but also having fun and laughing. Being able to play for her the last four years has prepared me really well for the next level. I’ve just been so thankful to have her as my coach.”
Kroenke’s season could not be going much better, but she was recently recognized nationally in another pinnacle of her basketball career thus far, being nominated as a McDonald’s All-American.
— Mizzou Basketball (@MizzouWBB) January 12, 2022
“I found out about a month ago and I was really excited because that is a huge honor to be selected in that group with all of the other really good players in the country,” the 17-year-old said.
A top-100 recruit, Kroenke is undoubtedly one of the top players in the nation and will soon put that to the test at the collegiate level. Next fall, Kroenke will be staying home in Columbia as she suits up for the Missouri Tigers.
“I had some other programs that I was looking at relatively closely, but I’d say all along I knew kind of in the back of my mind that Mizzou was the place I really wanted to go,” Kroenke said. “Living in Columbia, going to Mizzou games growing up, it’s very much a home feel for me … It’s always kind of been my dream school.”
While Kroenke wants to take her game as far as it can go, which may mean playing overseas someday, she also takes pride in continuing to represent her home state and relishes the chance to get to play alongside many girls she already knows at Mizzou. A final chapter of her story has yet to be written at Rock Bridge, but she knows her story with the Tigers will be just as good.
“I’m super excited,” Kroenke said. “Just the opportunity for my family and friends to come watch me play and be close to home, but also everything about the program. The coaching staff I love, the team chemistry that they have going there I love. Getting to play with some girls that I already know from AAU or high school ball is really cool for me. My goal is to just try to help our team win as much as we can, hopefully make some NCAA Tournament runs and make some history.”