Featured Player: Kim Cerjan - St. Olaf College

Kim CerjanKim Cerjan Qualifies and Competes in the 3-Point Championships at the NCAA Men's Final Four

It can be argued with a fair amount of certainty that Kim Cerjan's amazing high school basketball career and consequent charmed life started the day she asked her father to buy a Noah Select System.

Noah's National Sales Director Rick Turk visited Doherty High School in Colorado Springs, Colo., to showcase the system at a free clinic about two years ago. Once Kim saw Noah on display, she emphatically told her father, "I want one."

At the time, Keith Cerjan acknowledged that Noah would be a sizable investment, but one that could pay off.

"I thought maybe Noah can help them (Kim and brother Kole) play basketball at the next level or help them enjoy the game they love even more."

So he bought a system and built a platform for Noah to sit on in the backyard.

"I knew one day, I would get my investment back," Keith said.

That one day has arrived.

After earning a reputation as one of the top 3-point and free-throw shooters in Colorado, Kim extended her prep career by a few weeks. She qualified and competed in the 2012 American Family Insurance Slam Dunk and 3-Point Championships at the NCAA Men's Final Four in New Orleans on April 1.

Her journey to the Final Four is layered with many inspirational stories about determination, community and humility.

"Participating in the event was such a positive experience," Kim said. "I loved every minute of it. I still can't believe I was there. I learned that I need to take advantage of every opportunity that life presents me. I learned I have a lot of friends, family and people in the community supporting me. The experience opened my eyes to how many people love me."

It started when Doherty Lady Spartan basketball coach Patrick McKiernan submitted a video of Kim shooting 3-pointers to the organizers of the event. It was rumored that about 200 videos were entered.

"I consider (Kim) one of the top five 3-point shooters in the state," he told a local news station. "I thought she was the best candidate to compete at the national level."

Miraculously, Kim was selected as one of 16 finalists to compete in a Facebook voting contest. She would go head-to-head in a bracket style tournament against the other finalists.

Winners advanced by receiving more votes than their opponents.

The winner of the Facebook contest would join seven other girls to shoot 3-pointers at the Final Four event. The seven other girls were selected based on statistics and reputation.

"Everything happened very quickly," said Kim mother, Karla. "I got the phone call from coach that she was one of the 16. The voting started instantly. We weren't prepared. So when I looked on Facebook for the first time, she was already losing."

That's when Karla sprung into action. She called, Facebooked, texted, used whatever means of communication she knew to contact family and friends. Kim needed their votes. Voting ended at 1 p.m. eastern time on Mondays during the contest. Each round's winner was posted and the next round immediately began.

Kim was a nervous wreck in her advanced placement art class during the announcement time. She had checked the score earlier in the day but it showed both girls tied at 50 percent.

No decimal points were revealed.

"Kim kept texting me, ‘Did I win? Did I win?'" Karla said. "It was really stressful. As the clock ticked down, we didn't know who won because the score was 50-50. During those last five minutes, you are holding your breath. Then it's a huge relief when you hit the refresh button and find out you did win."

With the first round in the books, Keith and Karla knew they had to step up their game if Kim was going to keep advancing. With family and friends voting daily for Kim, they decided to reach out to the community.

"We handed and posted flyers," Karla said. "We went to the Colorado Springs School District 11, and they posted voting information on their website. Doherty High School allowed Kim to ask students to vote during the morning announcements. The city government posted information. Radio and television stations did stories on Kim. It was a complete community effort."

Kim won her second round and then faced another 50-50 score in the third round. It was at that point, the strain of the competition caught up with Karla.

"When you look back on it, there were times when it was dreadful and draining," Karla said. "It was a constant process. You had to do it all day and then wake up the next morning and realize that she's still losing. Then you would have to do it all day again. That third round, I had no idea how to raise her percentage from 50. You asked everyone you know to vote, you've put up flyers everywhere, you've done everything you can but that number doesn't budge."

Then the Monday deadline came. Karla sat in front of the computer and hit refresh. Kim had once again prevailed. She was on to the final round.

She faced a competitor from Arizona and was actually losing 51-49 percent entering the weekend. But by then, the machine was in motion and with what seemed like the entire state behind her, Kim's number moved to 60 percent over the next 48 hours. Kim was going to represent Doherty High School and her community at a national basketball event.

"It makes me feel so good that I have so many people who care about me," Kim said. "Sometimes people came up to me in the streets and said ‘hey, I voted for you.' It's an amazing thing to know."

And what about her mother's efforts?

"She's definitely a great mom," Kim said. "She wants me to have every opportunity to show people the basketball, schooling and art side of me. She wants me to put my name out there."

When Kim was declared the winner, a sudden revelation overcame her. She now had to compete. She did the only logical thing—she went to the gym with Noah and started shooting several thousand shots over the next couple of weeks. During these practice sessions, Kim would focus her thoughts on the event.

"I was really, really nervous, but I realized how special it was just to have the opportunity to be there and be on the floor," Kim said. "All the girls who were shooting against me were division I players. I knew I wasn't the same level. So I had nothing to lose. I just wanted to go out there and do my best."

The agreement was since Coach McKiernan initiated the process, he would go with Kim. The event provided airfare and room and board for the player and one representative. But Keith, Karla and Kole as well as Keith's parents joined Kim in New Orleans. Kim said her schedule was planned out. There were media appearances, photo shoots, dinners and a little time to practice shooting. The schedule was so jammed pack that she didn't get to visit the famed Bourbon Street until around midnight after the shooting event.

"When I looked at this contest online, I didn't find a lot of information about it, other than few pictures," Karla said. "I didn't realize how big it is. Then she arrives and there's a big bag with her name and number on it. She has a jersey, shoes and warm-ups. A chartered bus takes them from event to event. And the production side of it was amazing. They were cameras and lights everywhere."

Once those lights went on and it was time to compete, Kim again felt her nerves taking control. But she reminded herself the unique opportunity ahead of her and that she had nothing to lose.

"I was shaking the whole time," Kim said.

This was the first time Kim had been on national television, which she calls "the coolest thing I've ever done."

Kim didn't disappoint in the opening round as she tallied 14 points to advance. Kim scored 11 points in the semifinals, which was one point shy from advancing to the finals. Kim finished third. Kari Korver, who signed with UCLA and is the niece to Kyle Korver of the Chicago Bulls, won the event.

"I was surprised at the result," Kim said. "I didn't expect to go out there and do so well."

Karla said she couldn't have been more proud of her daughter.

"I always tell her how amazing she is to do what she can do," Karla said. "Keith and I are not basketball players or coaches. Kim's success and determination is all from her. Basketball is her passion. She works hard at it. She has earned every bit of her success."

When she returned from New Orleans, the Colorado Springs mayor presented her with an award. So did the school board. And so did U.S. Senator (Michael Bennet or Mark Udall). Two organizers from the event came to Doherty High School and presented Kim with a plaque.

"I never saw any of this coming when I told my dad I wanted a Noah," Kim said. "I'm so glad we got one. I would have never been able to go to New Orleans or play college ball without Noah."

Kim will study veterinarian medicine and biology at St. Olaf College next fall. She'll also shoot 3-pointers for the Oles. Going to St. Olaf is quite a departure from her original plan of attending a college in a warm place like California.

"The coach has been talking to me for about a year and a half," Kim said. "I originally said there's no way I would go. It's so cold up there in Minnesota. But when I visited the school, I loved it. I can't picture going anywhere else."

Rumor has it that Kim will bring her boyfriend to St. Olaf with her.

Who is her boyfriend?

"Keith jokes that Kim will want to bring Noah or her boyfriend to college with her," Karla said. "She really loves her Noah."