Nate Robinson's little Cousin: Cheri Craddock

Cheri Craddock breaks into a light chuckle when asked about the childhood memories of her cousin, Nate Robinson. Now in her sophomore season on the Husky women's basketball team, the soft-spoken shooting guard reflected on the enjoyable moments she spent growing up with the most famous Husky hoopster since Bob Houbregs.

"There was one summer when Nate was 9 or 10 years old, and we were at a track and field camp," said Craddock. "Nate would sit up in the stands and eat chips, even though he wasn't supposed to. Well, the coach caught him and made him come down and run the 400 meters. Nate was a sprinter and a jumper, so the 400 meters wasn't his thing, never mind the fact that he was eating all those chips.

"And I don't think he ever finished it," says Craddock with a laugh. "He got sick and was off to the side throwing up."

Craddock was actually recruited to Washington last year as a track athlete. She had no direct contact with the UW basketball coaches until the fall of 2003. "I came to Washington on a track scholarship," she said. "I had been offered a basketball scholarship by Washington State, but Nate was a big reason why I decided to come to the University of Washington to run track." Then Craddock quickly adds in a near whisper that was almost apologetic in tone: "Plus, I didn't want to go to Washington State."

Nonetheless, as an incoming freshman from the Bay Area, Craddock had the desire to play on the basketball team, and mentioned this to her cousin Nate. Next thing she knew, she was at the open gym, with Nate as a consort leading the way. "At first I was kind of scared," said Craddock. "Nate took me there and got me involved with it… And that became my happiest moment so far, just making the team, not long after that. Making the team was a big thing for me. The day that made that possible was when they put me out there to practice with the other members of the team, just to see how I would respond and see how I would do."

Craddock had a shooting exercise where she had ninety seconds to make as many three-point shots as she could from specific spots around the perimeter of the key. "I was on fire that day," said Craddock. "You start on the wing and if you hit three in a row, you move onto the next spot. Well I had 4 spots in the ninety seconds. That seemed to open their eyes to me. The other girls were telling me, don't worry… you're gonna make the team, you're gonna make the team. I felt like I had a chance. When I was finally told that I had made it, I was so happy."

Nate Robinson made sure to take good care of his little cousin, especially that first year. "He would come by and pick up me and my roommate and other close friend, and take us to the movies, or to the fair," she said. He was making sure that we were having a good time and not just sitting around the dorms all the time."

I mentioned that that was solid of Nate to do, and Craddock laughed.

"Well, he also had no choice," she said. "Our Grandma told him to look out for me. And she calls every week or so, saying Is Nate looking after you? Is he taking you places? But in all seriousness, Nate's just a great guy. He goes out of his way to do things for me that he doesn't have to do. And I appreciate it."

Craddock was asked what the commotion is like when in public with Nate.

"Oh! It never stops," she said with a laugh. "You can be on the Ave with him, or especially at the mall. Everyone is staring at him, saying WOW, NATE ROBINSON! We'll have 3-4 people follow him into stores after he has just gone in there, just to get his autograph and talk to him… But he likes it. He signs autographs all the time and talks to people non stop."

During her freshman year Craddock struggled, as she was redshirting, even though she had a burning desire to play. Then one night prior to the pre-game shoot around in Tempe, Arizona, June Daugherty called Cheri over.

"We were sitting in the locker room, and she said that due to injury they would like me to play. I played that night and I think I had 7 points. When I first got out onto the court, I wasn't totally there mentally. I wasn't nervous or scared, but just kind of detached from myself. Then suddenly a girl went for a steal, and I went for it and took it toward the lane and shot it. I missed the shot, but it felt good. Then a few moments later, I did a little runner in the paint and made it, with a swish, and I said to myself: I can do this, I belong here."

Soon after, a teammate gave Cheri the nickname "Machine Gun Craddock" for her outside shooting exploits. "I didn't like the nickname at first," she said shyly. "But then I got used to it, and now it's OK."

During a recent game against Arizona, Washington trailed Arizona 40-30, when Craddock wowed the crowd with a Ray Allen-esque barrage from outside. Within the span of 2:00, Craddock buried three consecutive 3-pointers, on her way to a career-high 14 points.

Currently Craddock is on a team that is completely dominated by freshman and sophomores. She sees a bright future ahead.

"We look out for each other, and we're tight… Some of the mistakes we make are because we are young. We're just all learning together. By the time we are seniors we should be a great team."

Among her most fervent game-day supporters is Nate. "So far in the two years, Nate has only missed one game of mine when he was in town. He's always there and cheering LOUDLY," she said with another laugh. "There was one recent game where he started out sitting behind the bench, and then suddenly he was sitting at half court almost on the floor.

"And I made a basket and was coming back down the court… and Nate jumps up practically onto the court and as I go running by, and he gives me a high five!

"And I'm aware of him there all the time," she said.
Derek Johnson can be reached at Top Stories