MOORHEAD-Before she even played a women's basketball game for Minnesota State Moorhead, Cassidy Thorson walked out of Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse and wanted to quit.
The West Fargo High School graduate felt overwhelmed in her first year at college, adjusting to the academics, living in the dorms and the demands of being a college athlete.
"It was a hard transition for me," said Thorson, now a senior. "I tried walking out the doors, but my teammates stopped me. I let my emotions get to me."
Former Dragons guard Morgan Banasik went after then-freshman Thorson, who walked out of a preseason conditioning drill.
"I was like you're not quitting over sprints," Banasik said. "I told her she could do this. She came back into the gym and we finished them."
Thorson is glad she walked back through those doors. So are the Dragons. Thorson is the first player in program history to sink more than 200 career 3-pointers and also surpassed 1,000 career points earlier this season.
"She hung in there and hung in there and it just all fell into place," Dragons head coach Karla Nelson said. "I am so grateful because she's one of my favorites because of her personality."
Thorson has helped the Dragons (23-5) earn a second consecutive trip to the NCAA Division II tournament. MSUM plays Central Missouri (24-3) at 2:30 p.m. Friday in the first round of the Central Region at the Elmen Center in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Dragons senior forward Drew Sannes said it's hard to believe Thorson even contemplated walking away from basketball.
"Looking back, it's crazy because of what kind of player she's grown into," Sannes said. "She one of the smartest players I have ever played with."
Thorson is averaging 10.4 points per game and leads the team in steals (29) and 3-pointers made (70) through 28 games. She's one of the team's best defenders and knows every detail of the scouting report for each opponent.
"She is no nonsense. She doesn't want drama. There is no drama around her," Nelson said. "She is going to do whatever it takes to win basketball games. If she needs to score, she is going to try to do that. If she needs to defend, she is going to do that."
An elementary education major, Thorson plans to get into coaching starting next season. She is set to be a graduate assistant for Nelson. Thorson is excited to transition into coaching after he playing career has ended.
"That's something that I really want to do the rest of my life," she said.
The Dragons are playing Central Missouri in the D-II tournament for a second consecutive season. The Jennies earned a 56-45 victory against the Dragons in the first round of the Central Region last season. MSUM shot 30 percent (17 of 57) from the field in that game, including an 0-for-17 performance from 3-point range.
"Last year, we just couldn't make any outside shots," Thorson said.
"I think that all of us are feeling extremely lucky to have this chance," Sannes added. "We want to do better than we did last year. We want to leave a better legacy for this program."
Thorson has left her mark on the program, one that wouldn't have happened if she had decided not to return to the gym during the moment of freshman frustration.
"I think I was more stressed out about school. I took it out right there when I shouldn't have," Thorson said. "It was a silly mindset. I'm so glad I stuck it out."
Who: MSUM vs. Central Missouri
When: 2:30 p.m., Friday
Where: Elmen Center, Sioux Falls, S.D.