NEENAH — It was a magical year for the Neenah boys basketball team as they won the Division One state title last weekend.
However, for one of their key players, the season started off about just bad as it can get due to an injury. Although, it ended in the best way possible.
“Chills man. Just chills. Going out there as a kid, you go to the state championship, you’re like, ‘I want to be out there,” said junior guard Cal Klesmit.
Klesmit tore the ACL in his left leg last July, effectively knocking him out of the Rockets upcoming 2021-2022 basketball season.
“Just sitting on the bench was probably one of the toughest things I had to do in my life,” he said.
Rockets head coach Lee Rabas was more than proud of the way Klesmit handled his injury and supported his teammates all year.
“He’s handled it with just – unbelievable, right?” Rabas said after the state title game. “I mean, he’s been such a great teammate the entire season. He's like an assistant coach on the bench. If you're a parent out there and you want to help your kid through an ACL, get in contact with me because you want to talk to Cal. He's just handled it phenomenally.”
Rabas had Klesmit suit up for the state semifinal game, but was not able to get him in. Before their state title matchup against Brookfield Central, Klesmit told his teammates to put up a sizable lead to get him in the game.
“I'm just happy for them that they could do that, obviously for me. I don't know if that was extra motivation,” Klesmit said.
With a big lead and less than 10 seconds to go, Rabas called down to Klesmit, he was going in.
“I look at coach Rabas, he looks at me, he goes, ‘don’t get hurt,’” Klesmit said.
And Klesmit was the one to handle the ball to end the game.
“Threw the ball up, hit the Jumbotron actually and I was like, ‘Oh god, (I) hope that didn’t do anything,” said the junior. “It was awesome. If I could go relive that, I would.”
Klesmit will continue to rehab his leg and play AAU ball in the summer, all in hopes to make it back-to-back titles for the program. Despite being injured for an entire season, he just picked up his fourth Division One scholarship offer, as UW-Green Bay offered on Thursday.
“November can’t come soon enough,” Klesmit said about how eager he is to return to the court.