Youth movement: Fort Osage freshman adds to area’s bevy of young stars

Bill Althaus
Fort Osage girls basketball coach Lindsay Thompson, left, sanitizes the balls used in practice with freshman Emmah Crowe. The 5-foot-8 forward could play a big role this season for the Indians.

There seems to be a youthful trend taking place in high school girls basketball programs in Eastern Jackson County.

Last season, The Examiner’s Co-Players of the Year were Blue Springs’ Jada Williams and Grain Valley’s Grace Slaughter – both freshmen already getting significant interest from NCAA Division I coaches.

At any time, Truman coach Steve Cassity could have up to five freshmen on the court and underclassmen were sprinkled throughout lineups with many other area schools.

This year Grain Valley coach Randy Draper will play many freshmen off an undefeated regular-season middle school team to go along with Slaughter, who has already verbally committed to Missouri.

And a 5-foot-8 forward at Fort Osage has the chance to earn some headlines as Emmah Crowe is already making an impact with coach Lindsay Thompson’s Indians.

“I’m really, really excited about being a part of the high school team at Fort Osage,” Crowe said Thursday night, following an instructional, social distanced practice. “When I was in second or third grade, I’d come up with my parents and watch the girls at Fort Osage and I would dream of playing here. Now, I’m here and I want to make an impact.

“I want to be a leader on the court, and in the locker room and I want to be an important part of our family.”

Family. That is a term that resonates throughout the gym as Thompson has created a family atmosphere with her team that is so apparent when they play or practice.

“We are a family,” senior Katelyn Ward said. “Family is so important to Coach Thompson and to all of us. And we’re all so excited about this season, and we can’t wait to see what Emmah brings to the team this year. She has already impressed everyone in practice and we know she’s going to be a big part of our team this season.”

Junior Heather Chiesi agrees.

“It’s just so good to get back in our gym and see everyone,” Chiesi said. “It’s great to see our teammates from last year and our new players, like Emma, who has so much potential.

“This is our basketball home, this is our family and this is one way we can forget about the pandemic for a couple of hours and be with our family on the court and work hard and have fun.”

Nodding in agreement is Thompson, a former Indians star guard who teamed with former WNBA Finals MVP Betty Lennox on some of the most successful teams in Fort Osage history.

“We can’t really get out there and play basketball because of the social distancing, but this is giving us the opportunity to work on fundamentals and the girls are really responding,” Thompson said.

“Mentally, this is so important for them. We didn’t get to start working until June 29 and they have made the most of every minute in the gym. I love what my seniors and juniors are bringing and we have so many new players who are going to make an impact.

“Emmah has been watching our team for a long time, and I’m so happy she is going to be a part of our Fort Osage basketball family this season. The girls love her, she’s a hard worker and is so talented.”

When asked about the drawbacks of social distancing, Thompson chuckled.

“We’re a family, we like to hug, and we can’t do that, so we have a special little gesture we use instead of hugging,” she said.

And it was displayed at the end of the practices session as the girls raised their hands in the air with a hang loose gesture that brought giggles and smiles.

“Someday we’ll hopefully be hugging again,” the veteran coach said. “Someday soon, we all hope, someday soon.”