April 30, 1981|
Long Island, New York
|Listed height||5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)|
Longwood (Brookhaven, New York)|
Christ The King (Queens, New York)
Sachem (Long Island, New York)
|WNBA draft||2003 / Round: 3 / Pick: 39th overall|
|Selected by the New York Liberty|
Nicole Anne Kaczmarski (born April 30, 1981) is an American former professional basketball player. A standout player in high school, she received a Gatorade Player of the Year award, was named Miss New York Basketball and earned a spot on the 1999 USA Today All-USA high school basketball team. Heavily recruited by colleges, Kaczmarski eventually enrolled at UCLA and played one season for their women's basketball team but took time off during her sophomore year to deal with health issues and personal problems. She then transferred to the University of Georgia, but left the school before the team’s first practice.
Kaczmarski then left college basketball altogether and enrolled at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Afterward, she had brief stints with two WNBA teams, the New York Liberty and the Los Angeles Sparks. In 2011, she became a color commentator for basketball telecasts.
High School career
A Long Island native, Kaczmarski first gained national recognition at Longwood High School, where she was named women's high school basketball Freshman of the Year by ESPN RISE. Although reports had her enrolling elsewhere for her freshman year, Kaczmarkski's father, who had custody of her at the time, had purportedly been unable to sell his house in Middle Island and as a result could not enroll her in another school. She led the team at Longwood to a 10-2 record and a three-way tie for the league title before falling in the quarterfinals of the Class A Playoffs against Walt Whitman High School. Kaczmarski, also known by her nickname "Kaz" subsequently had a brief stint playing for Christ The King Regional High School alongside future University of Connecticut and WNBA star Sue Bird. She played most of her high school basketball at Sachem High School, where she set a Long Island women's high school basketball record with 2,583 career points. During her high school career, she was named both Gatorade Player of the Year and Miss New York Basketball and was a selection to the 1999 USA Today All-USA high school basketball team. Kaczmarski was highly recruited and after fielding other offers from Stanford University, the University of Virginia and the University of Florida, she decided to attend UCLA. One of the last games she played as a high school player was the Women's Basketball Coaches Association All-America game. Kaczmarski's high school career and entrance into college basketball were documented in the 1999 film Running Down a Dream.
College and WNBA career
At UCLA, Kaczmarski started at point guard early in the 1999-2000 season due to an injury to regular starter Erica Gomez. Eventually, she was shifted to the shooting guard position. Kaczmarski faced some early season struggles, including a pair of losses in December to Rutgers and UCONN during her return to the New York metropolitan area. She improved later in the season, ending with an average of 11.7 points per game and having set a school record by hitting seven three pointers during a game at Washington State University. Kaczmarski was also named Pac-10 Player of the Week during the final week of the regular season and was a selection to the conference all-freshman team.
Despite reaffirming her commitment to UCLA in early 2000, Kaczmarski did not return to UCLA for her sophomore year, opting to stay in New York instead. She had been suffering from lyme disease, as well as plantar fasciitis due to an injury she suffered at trials for the USA Basketball World University Games team. In addition, Kaczmarski had also been experiencing difficulty adjusting to life away from home. It was also reported that Kaczmarski had enrolled at UCLA against her father's wishes. In December 2000, Kaczmarski formally requested a letter of release so she could transfer to another school. Copies of the letter were sent to Duke University, the University of Florida, the University of Georgia and the University of Virginia. Kaczmarski enrolled at Georgia and her father assisted her with the transition. However, after staying several months and before the team's first practice, she notified Lady Bulldogs coach Andy Landers that she would not return to the team.
Kaczmarski returned to school at the State University of New York at Stonybrook, but never returned to college basketball. With two years of eligibility left, she moved in with her mother and took a job waiting tables at a local Outback Steakhouse. An article in USA Today attributed her hiatus to the rift between her divorced parents over her life focus on basketball.
In 2003, Kaczmarski was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2003 WNBA Draft as the final pick of her hometown WNBA team, the New York Liberty. She was unaware that she had been drafted until a friend called to congratulate her. Kaczmarski did not make the Liberty's regular season roster but started playing professionally in Europe. She then had a brief stint with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2005 before she was waived by the team.
After being waived by the Sparks, Kaczmarski reportedly continued to pursue a career in healthcare. In 2011, she returned to basketball as an analyst for the Cablevision channel MSG Varsity and for the St. John's Red Storm. The following year, Kaczmarski became the first female athlete to have her jersey retired by Sachem High School. As of March 2018, she ranks third for most career points scored in Long Island women's high school basketball.
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- Kersich, Peter (February 22, 2018). "North Shore's Gabrielle Zaffiro becomes No. 2 in LI girls basketball scoring". Newsday. Retrieved March 8, 2010.