Sisters share unbreakable bond
It was going to be a special night.
Kalabrya Gondrezick was on her way to school, half asleep in the back seat of her mom's car, perhaps dreaming of the moment that night when she would step onto the home basketball court at Benton Harbor (Mich.) for the first time as a varsity player.
Her kid sister, Kysre, also a basketball nut, was in the front seat, and their mom, Lisa Harvey-Gondrezick, was behind the wheel.
And then -- nothing.
"Every day I wake up with a scar that I don't remember exactly how it got there," said Kalabrya, now a junior at Benton Harbor and the No. 53 prospect in the nation in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2015 class. "I didn't see what happened. I woke up in a hospital with people hovering over me and crying."
What had happened on the morning of Dec. 16, 2011, was a head-on collision with another car.
Both Kalabrya and Kysre were knocked unconscious and suffered internal injuries. Kalabrya had burns on her face and needed 12 stitches to close a cut over her eye. According to Lisa, Kalabrya flatlined in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Kysre had a large gash on her knee. Lisa -- the only person in the car wearing a seat belt -- suffered a concussion and an injury to her left leg.
"I get down sometimes because of the scar -- I get insecure about that," Kalabrya said. "But I'm blessed to be alive. A lot of people don't make it through something like that."
Kalabrya, who still has back pain from the accident, did more than survive – she flourished.
She missed just two games and had 25 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists on the night she returned to action. The 5-foot-8 point guard averaged 23.5 points that season and made first-team all-state.
As a sophomore last year, Kalabrya repeated as an all-state player, averaging 17.2 points, 9.5 assists and 8.1 rebounds. She was joined on the all-state team by her sister Kysre, the No. 22 prospect in the espnW Terrific 25 for the 2016 class, who averaged 28.6 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists as a freshman.
Unlike Kalabrya, Kysre, a 5-9 shooting guard, remembers the crash. Almost too well.
"I don't really talk about it," said Kysre, now a sophomore, "but I saw it happening. I was in the mirror fixing my hair. I saw a car swerve in front of us, and I yelled 'Mommy,' hoping she could stop the car in time -- but it was too late. He came in full-force.
"I remember blocking my sister. I stuck my arm out to stop her from [getting thrown into the windshield].
"I ended up having a hole in my knee. My sister had a lot of scars. When I look at her today, I can finally see the beauty she has. … I'm just happy we're alive, and I can play the game I love."
A family game
Kyrse jokes that she had no choice but to play basketball, and when you consider her family's accomplishments, you can understand the sentiment.
Lisa was a role player on Louisiana Tech's 1988 national championship team. She now coaches her daughters at Benton Harbor, her alma mater.
Her husband, Grant Gondrezick, 50, played two years in the NBA as a 6-5 shooting guard before getting sidetracked due to substance-abuse issues. He recovered, however, and went on to play nine more years, mostly in Europe.
Grant's brother, Glen, had his number retired after his college career at UNLV and went on to play six years in the NBA. He died in 2009 due to heart failure. He was 53.
On the other side of the family, Lisa's father, Lou, was a highly successful junior college and high school coach before semi-retiring. Lou, 70, now serves as Lisa's assistant at Benton Harbor after vacating the head coaching position so Lisa could coach her daughters.
"Basketball runs through the family," Kysre said. "It would be bad for us not to keep that legacy going. I'm humble and represent my name. But I'm also trying to make a name for myself."
Life as a movie
Lisa, 46, said she met Grant in 1991 after she had returned from playing pro ball in Italy and was acting in off-Broadway shows in New York.
One day, she sang the national anthem before a summer-league game, and Grant came into the stands to tell her she was amazing.
"Three days later, we've been together ever since," Lisa said. "Our life should be a movie. With the biracial marriage (she's black, he's white), the children, so many road blocks …"
If it were a movie, there could be a lot of interesting cameos. According to Lisa, her host on her recruiting trip at Louisiana Tech was future NBA superstar Karl Malone; the girls' godfather is ex-NBA standout John Lucas; Grant has trained ex-MLB pitching star Roger Clemens; and WNBA star Skylar Diggins has served as the girls' mentor.
As for her husband's issues, Lisa said she has learned that addiction is a disease.
"When you love someone, it's unconditional -- good, bad or indifferent," she said. "He did have some issues and some struggles. It's one of those things we've worked through.
"I believe he diverted the addiction to working out, and that became his drug -- working out and training the kids."
Dreaming of bigger things
The girls are more than just great athletes. Both are first in their class academically. Kalabrya has a 4.7 GPA. Kysre has a 4.6.
Both want to study communications, and there is a chance that whichever college convinces Kalabrya to accept a scholarship will also get Kysre.
Kalabrya said there is a slight chance she will pick her college by November. In no particular order, the schools that interest her are Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Yale, Northwestern and Louisville.
"I don't want to go too far from home," said Kalabrya, who also wants to minor in fashion design and has a dream of creating a line of women's athletic clothes that are feminine and not too baggy or too tight.
Meanwhile, Kysre writes for her school paper, The Benton Spirit, and has her own column called "Eye of the Tiger." Among others, she has interviewed former Benton Harbor and NBA All-Star Chet Walker.
Kysre is content to wait until her sister makes her college choice before she decides.
"My mom has made it clear that I don't have to go to the same school as my sister," Kysre said. "Buy why wouldn't I want to play with my sister?
"I will at least consider the school she chooses. … I just want to play basketball at the highest level possible."