Air Academy girls basketball coach Phil Roiko just laughs when trying to describe what Kylee Blacksten's shot looked like as a freshman.

An easy way to describe it is that it's not as refined as it is today.

But with Blacksten being one of the most talented girls basketball players in the state, he prefers to be more descriptive, if nothing else just be able to talk about how far she's come in the last four years.

"As a freshman it had this weird twist to it and everything," he said.

And as he said it, he was trying to demonstrate the way in which the ball was spinning on that shot. Roiko looked more like an umpire signaling for a home run than a basketball coach gesturing the spin of a shot.

"Now it's smooth," he says with a sly grin.

There's nothing about Blacksten's game as a senior for the Kadets that isn't smooth. At any given point of a game, she can handle the ball, find an open teammate after drawing a double-team, attack the basket, knock down long range shots and defend.

She's a complete player and that exactly what the University of Colorado thought when convinced her to play in Boulder when her time at Air Academy is over.

"They're recruiting me to play the three and I love driving (to the hoop)," Blacksten said. "That's my favorite part is driving and then that kick out and then that awesome three that everyone screams and yells about. The running aspect that it will fit."

The lesson is cliche, but it doesn't make any less true. Blacksten's path from a weird twist in her jumpshot to a Division I prospect didn't happen overnight. In fact, it came by making overnights shorter in time.

(Dan Mohrmann/

To evolve into the player she's become, she learned to take advantage of every minute of the day, even if that meant early in the mornings when everyone else was asleep.

"Instead of just sleeping in, a lot of kids take partials in the morning and are sleeping, she's going and working with her skills coach.," Roiko said. "So that's, this tells you the dedication she has, where other kids are sleeping and she's working on her game and that's paid off."

Playing college basketball has been a dream of hers ever since she was a kid. She comes from a family of athletes and both of her parents had the opportunity to play collegiately, but neither one panned out.

When she decided that she wanted to get to that next level, she felt like she was doing it for her parents just as much as she was doing it for herself.

"It was kind of like they got it but didn't go," Blacksten said. So it's always been my dream to go play."

But first thing's first. The Kadets are looking to bounce back from what they felt like was a premature departure from the Class 4A girls basketball tournament last year.

Graduation took a heavy toll on the team and the only two players with significant varsity experience were Blacksten and junior Annie Louthan.

As the lone senior in the starting lineup — and one of two total on the roster — logic says that Blacksten should be the bona fide leader on the floor. But in the way that most people think of that role, that's not her style. She's not as vocal as many would expect her to be. But her style certainly plays into the make up of Air Academy's team.

"We're all a family and we all love each other," Blacksten said. "We all support each other and we really do want the best for each other."

With just one loss in this young season, there's still plenty of time to do the best for each other. And if the evolution of this year's team is anything like Blacksten's shot from four years ago, a deep playoff run may once again be in the cards for the Kadets.