Former Destrehan star takes court after losing grandfather

Cara Ursin takes the ball to the rim.

Valuable reserve for nation’s No. 1 college team

Cara “Moon” Ursin is a winner. Always has been.

That much was clear during her decorated career as a basketball superstar at Destrehan High, where Louisiana’s two-time Miss Basketball led her Wildcats to an undefeated record and the program’s first ever state championship in her senior year. And it remains clear these days with Ursin’s emergence as a valuable reserve for the Baylor Bears basketball team, which entered the NCAA Tournament as its top overall seed after going 31-1 during the regular season.

Being part of the country’s most dominant team has been a special experience, the sophomore guard said.

“I think we’re continuing to get better, get stronger and building on each other’s play,” said Ursin. “It’s really been great. We don’t really have individual players on our team because everyone’s so together, everyone pulls for one another and wants the next person to have success.”

Of course, moving from the high school to the collegiate level is rarely seamless, and like the vast majority of star prep players, Ursin has had to adjust to a shift in role. On a roster loaded full of talented players, many of which are upperclassmen, she’s not asked to be the team’s offensive centerpiece at this stage of her career, so she’s responded by taking on the less glamorous aspects of the game to make a positive impact—primarily at the defensive end.

“That’s where everything starts, to me,” Ursin said. “You get a stop or a steal and then you go down and get a layup. You stop them from scoring and turn that into offense. That can be a key factor in turning a game around, and it’s where you get a lot of your energy and excitement from.”

That’s not to say the offensive skills that Destrehan fans expect from her can’t be called upon when needed. In a road victory over conference rival Texas, Ursin posted a career-high 20 points to go with five rebounds and two steals.

She said it made her feel “like herself” again.

“I know there were still things I could go back and do better on that night, but at that moment, I felt like I was Cara ‘Moon’ Ursin,” she said.

A spectacular performer in her days as a Wildcat, Ursin quickly became one of the nation’s top recruits. She is the state’s only three-time Gatorade prep Player of the Year, winning the third of those crowns after averaging 27.6 points, 14.2 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 5.6 steals and 4.1 blocks per game as a senior.

She admitted that becoming more of a  role player than focal point was something of a culture shock.

But arguably Ursin’s most impressive stat at Destrehan —her team’s 121-8 record in games she took the floor — translated just fine. She’s willing to do whatever it takes to win, and that has her minutes on the upswing. In the Big 12 championship tournament she played 22, 13 and 21 minutes, respectively, in wins over Texas Tech, Kansas State and Iowa State, netting the Bears a sweep of the regular season and tournament conference championships.

“Winning championships never gets old,” Ursin quipped.

She played most of that tournament with a heavy heart. After scoring 13 points in Baylor’s opening round win over Texas Tech, Ursin absorbed a major emotional blow, learning her grandfather, Clarence Alexander, had passed away. The two were extremely close, and Ursin called his loss “the hardest thing, by far” she’s ever dealt with.

“He’s the first person I’ve ever lost,” she said. “My teammates … it’s crazy how supportive they’ve been. Texting me, loving on me. Some of them went through the same thing. The coaches and fans here are lifting me up, writing me letters … it’s why I think I’ve been able to still get up and go after it.”

Just as her team was there for her, she wanted to be there for her team. Only a day after she learned of his passing, Ursin grabbed four rebounds and made three assists to help lift her team past Kansas State. A day later, the team sealed up the Big 12 tournament championship.

“There are still times I go home and cry about it,” Ursin said. “All I can do is continue to play for him and to make the rest of my family proud.”

 

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