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For someone who not only played most of the time on her previous teams, but who also starred on those teams, this has been a bit of a strange year of basketball for Hampshire graduate Cassie Dumoulin.
That doesn't mean it's been all bad. To the contrary, Dumolulin had the time of her life wearing the orange and blue No. 10 uniform for the University of Illinois this season.
"It's been an amazing experience, especially for someone from such a small town," said Dumoulin Thursday after the sixth-seeded Illini had their season abruptly ended by No. 11 Wisconsin in a Big Ten Tournament upset at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.
"Sometimes I still have that 'pinch me' feeling. I've had an awesome coaching staff and great girls to play with. It's been quite a year."
But it's also been very different for Dumoulin, who played only 7 minutes in 7 games for the Illini. As a two-time all-area player at Hampshire and then the two-time Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference Player of the Year at Elgin Community College, the 5-foot-8 Dumoulin rarely came off the floor unless the game's outcome was already decided.
The 2012 NJCAA Lea Pilarski Award winner and second-team All-America, scored 1,383 career points at ECC. She knew all along she wanted to continue her education at Illinois, where her dad and mom, Pat and Lisa, also went. Playing basketball for the Illini wasn't really a thought until head coach Matt Bollant came to Champaign from Wisconsin-Green Bay and brought assistant Mike Divilbiss with him. Divilbiss knew of Dumoulin through former Dundee-Crown coach Joe Komaromy, and when a scholarship opened up late at Illinois, Bollant offered it to Dumoulin and she accepted.
Now, don't get any ideas that Dumoulin thought she was going to walk into Illinois and become the next Big Ten Player of the Year. A civil engineering major, this girl is no dummy.
But she'd be lying if she said she didn't have hopes of playing more than she did.
"I talk to my parents about that all the time," said Dumoulin, the oldest of Pat and Lisa's 10 children. "I've always played so this has been a completely different experience for me. Just because you work hard doesn't mean good things are always going to happen, but that doesn't stop you from working hard and it doesn't change the person you are."
Well, we're certainly happy to hear that because Dumoulin is one of the fiercest competitors yet one of the nicest, most respectful people I've ever had the pleasure to report on and get to know. Those qualities are evident in all of Pat and Lisa Dumoulin's kids, and those kids take their lead from Cassie.
But don't think she's bitter or regrets deciding to join the team at Illinois. Like I said, this girl is no dummy, and the year she's spent as an Illini basketball player will be something she makes a positive in her life regardless of the lack of actual playing time.
"I plan on taking this experience and using it the rest of my life," said Dumoulin, who said she's undecided as to returning to the team next season. "I've got to meet so many neat people. Just because it doesn't happen a certain way doesn't mean good things can't come out of it.
"Basketball has been a very important part of my life but there's a lot more important things and I need to keep focused on what's really important."
So when you talk about someone who gets it, you're talking about Cassie Dumoulin.