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The Constant Amongst Variability

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

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College is a time for growth, exploration and self-discovery but for student-athletes their four years spent at a university are consumed by early morning practices, weekend getaways to opposing schools and countless hours devoted to the sport they know and love. 

However, senior Cassie Harberts is a prime example of how to get the most out of your four years whether it be from experiences on the court or the many lessons learned away from it. The face of USC women's basketball, Harberts has been rock solid since she came to USC as a freshman. For a program that has dealt with a lot of change, Harberts has remained the one true constant amongst all this variability. 

"I think as a person I've been through so many coaching changes here so I've learned a lot of things that I'll be able to use later in life," said the mature senior. "I've learned how to deal with people and how to adapt to different types of people, especially learning how to keep yourself constant with everything else around you changing."

Harberts began her freshman year playing for Michael Cooper and immediately made a dynamic impact. She was the only player to start all 37 games, had two double-doubles and scored in double figures 22 times. She also set a record for most points by a Trojan freshman since 1981 when she racked up 31 points during a game in the Pac-10 tournament. Her performance was recognized by just about everyone as she was named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman team, Pac-10 All-Tournament team and the Pac-10 Media All-Freshman team. 

As a sophomore, Harberts continued to improve as she yet again played every single game and was the second-leading scorer on the team while also leading the team in double-digit scoring games (19) and double-digit rebounding efforts (five).

However, it wasn't until her junior season that Harberts became the indisputable star of the program. The junior forward led USC in scoring, rebounding and blocks averaging 18 points per game, 8.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. She started and played in every game and set a USC record for free throws made (207) and attempted (298) in a single season. She scored in double figures in every game except one and was named to the All-Pac-12 team. 

"As a basketball player, I've just grown as I've gotten older," said the 6-foot-2 forward. "I've just really tried to change my game to how it needed to fit whatever defense was coming at me so I've really just adapted as the years have gone on."

Now one of the few seniors on a very young women's basketball team, Harberts chooses to lead by example. She's become the center of this Trojan offense so she's learning to manage the double- and triple-teams to hopefully draw attention and create openings for her teammates. 

You would think this much attention would cause extra pressure; however, the senior understands that it's just her new role on the team. "I don't really think about the pressure. I just go into each game knowing what we have to do to win and I just do whatever I have in my power whether it's scoring or if it's not my scoring night finding something else to contribute," said Harberts. 

Her senior season is not only different in terms of the roles she plays but also because Harberts and the rest of USC women's basketball is learning from a previous Women of Troy legend and new head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke. As Harberts has learned, adaptability is the key to remaining consistent amongst change so learning from a new coach has provided a new challenge for the senior. 

"She's very different from what I've had the past couple of years," said Harberts. "Nonetheless, she was a great player herself so I feel like she just knows what it takes to be a great player so that's something new that she brings to the table."

Since she began her basketball career at USC as a freshman, Cassie Harberts has had one goal in mind: reaching the NCAA tournament. Though that has yet to happen, she still has high expectations for her senior season. "We've kind of struggled with a couple of teams this year that we should've beat but I think if we finish out the year strong I would love to win the Pac-12 tournament, that would just be a fantastic cap on the year. Then obviously, I would love to make it to the big one," said Harberts.

Regardless of this season's outcome, playing at USC for the past four years has been a dream come true for Harberts. As a kid, she was a dancer and soccer player so playing college basketball was something that she never imagined. However, now that her time as a Trojan is coming to a close, Harberts recognizes how much this has meant. "Just to be able to come to USC has been a dream come true. It's such a great school as everyone knows and it's huge in athletics. For me, the real reason I came here was to be close to my family, so to play every night and have them come watch is the biggest dream come true for me," said the senior from San Clemente. 

Four years have flown by and Cassie Harberts' Trojan basketball career is almost over; however, she expects to continue playing after college because as all student-athletes know it's hard to give up the one thing you know and love. Yet, Harberts also recognizes the importance of life outside of basketball as she is constantly learning things on and off the court that can be applied in any circumstance.

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