Like most athletes, Addi Kirkpatrick was issued a challenge prior to her senior year at Cumberland Valley: create 100 tea cups during the course of the school year.
Didn’t expect that one, right?
Kirkpatrick is a unique character for the three-time defending state champion Eagles (20-6), who face District 1 six seed Boyertown (23-5) in the first round of the PIAA Class 6A girls basketball championships on Friday. A senior starting center and the team’s second leading scorer, behind classmate Katie Jekot, Kirkpatrick is a willing talker but doesn’t seek the limelight.
She will go to Division II Lincoln Memorial University (Tennessee) next year because it’s small and a Christian school. The Railsplitters will be one of the No. 3 seeds in this year’s NCAA Division II Tournament after going 26-4 and winning the South Atlantic Conference Championship, and they’re exploring a move to Division I that could take place in the middle of Kirkpatrick’s career.
The former private school student needed time to adjust to the massive Cumberland Valley School District when she transferred as an eighth-grader. She’s looking forward to smaller classes at the next level.
So art is her escape, a little private time in an otherwise hectic and occasionally overwhelming year for any teenager.
“It’s so calming, and anytime I’m stressed out there’s where I go,” Kirkpatrick said.
Kirkpatrick has been known to shun the social pressure cooker of a high school cafeteria, foregoing the chatter to instead grab a few bites in peace and knock out another ceramic mug.
She’s currently at 84 tea cups. Like any good competitor, she’ll finish the mug challenge before the end of the school year. She’s planning to sell some in May at the school’s art festival and has already made $70 on others.
“I concentrate on mugs, because I like a good cup of coffee or tea in the morning,” Kirkpatrick said.
She has vases on the family’s mantel at home and keeps some of her work, including other more artsy designs. She can talk about wall width, how thick a base should be or what glazes don’t work with others.
“I have a few pieces that are just glazed really cool,” said Kirkpatrick, who was first introduced to ceramics in middle school and quickly developed a passion for it.
“I never really had an art program at my old school. … I ended up getting submitted to go to an art competition and started to get a little more passionate.”
And it’s not just a hobby. Kirkpatrick, unlike some of her peers still trying to figure out their life’s purposes, has her future mapped out. Or at least a general outline.
She plans to major in psychology and minor in art and eventually work as an art therapist with military veterans dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or kids and adults on the Autism Spectrum.
She might work at a hospital, or maybe she’ll start her own business. Not all the details are set yet, but she’s done plenty of research on it.
“I originally wanted to be a nurse,” she said. “And I love the idea of helping people.”
“I just noticed that in working with her (in practice) that’s she’s a very kind and caring person,” CV assistant coach Phil Gillis said. “She really makes an effort to make people feel wanted.”
You’d be hard-pressed to peg Kirkpatrick as a shy, caring girl if all you did was watch her on a court.
While not demonstrative and loud, Kirkpatrick plays aggressive — she’s been known to find herself on the bench in foul trouble. When she’s on the court, the Eagles offense hums with ball movement, and on defense she creates jams in the lane and is a mismatch for most opponents on the glass.
Some credit goes to her AAU schedule this summer, which sent the 6-footer as far as Chicago, or south to Georgia. Some of it probably belongs to her three older brothers, all of whom were athletes. Her oldest brother, 6-foot-5 forward Steve, was a Penn State walk-on; middle brother Colton played four years of linebacker at Lafayette; and the youngest brother, Tanner, four years older than Addi and a 6-foot-7 center, finished 46 points shy of 1,000 at Gettysburg College this season.
Kirkpatrick dabbled in field hockey, basketball and soccer throughout elementary school. She even picked up volleyball when she got to Eagle View Middle School.
But she’s spent the past four years developing into a team captain with good range and above-average court vision, especially from the top of the key, where she can stretch a defense and find cutting teammates in the lane.
“It’s improved a lot from my freshman through junior year,” Kirkpatrick said. “I was terrified when I got the ball.”
“She was a natural person to step up in a leadership role,” head coach Bill Wolf said. “We just wanted her to work hard and assume the role of leadership, which she did.”
Wolf said Kirkpatrick’s breakout game came in last year’s Class AAAA state championship against Cardinal O’Hara’s Mary Sheehan. Kirkpatrick went for a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds, 63 percent shooting) and slowed the Division I recruit, limiting her to just eight points (averaged 12.5 ppg before) and three rebounds.
She’ll be counted on for more of the same if the Eagles, fresh off a disappointing 40-31 loss to rival Central Dauphin that denied them of a third straight District 3 title, are to get back to Hershey. She’s averaging 11.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
“We wanna get her more shots,” said Wolf, who is targeting 15 shots a game for his best post threat. “The girl is shooting close to 50 percent (111-of-224). A good high school team shoots around 40 percent.”
“Honestly, yeah, it does get straining,” Kirkpatrick said when asked if there’s a mental drain to chasing a fourth state title. “But not for one second would I not want to be in the situation that we’re in.”
Besides, she can always unwind her with clay.