Summer Coach Highlight-Cris Pedersen

Published 12:41 pm Saturday, June 24, 2023

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

When it comes to basketball, some individuals are simply born with a passion for the game. Cris Pedersen, head varsity basketball coach at Crenshaw Christian Academy (CCA), is one such individual. 

A 1998 graduate of CCA, Pedersen’s journey into coaching began during his junior year of high school when he took on the role of coach for the peewee girls’ basketball team on which his younger sisters played. Little did he know that this experience would shape his future career in the sport.

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“I’ve  had a vision, for a long time, to see basketball in this area gain more recognition, to be on par with Indiana or North Carolina,” Pedersen shared. “We have incredible athletes here, and I’ve seen basketball evolve over the years. Social media and the internet have played a significant role in providing more exposure and opportunities to students from Crenshaw County. It’s a journey, and we still have a long way to go, but progress is evident.”

After his junior year, Pedersen found himself coaching the peewee girls’ basketball team again, dedicating his senior year to nurturing their skills and instilling a love for the game. This early coaching experience set him on a path that would eventually lead him back to his alma mater.

From 2009 to 2011, Pedersen served as the assistant coach for the boys’ basketball team at CCA after holding the role of head coach of the girls basketball in 2008. However, life took Pedersen to Indiana to explore new opportunities before returning to his roots in Luverne in 2017. It was a homecoming that brought him back to what he loves most—coaching basketball.

Returning to CCA, Pedersen saw an opportunity to tap into the immense talent present in Crenshaw County and bring basketball to the forefront. He said he recognizes the potential within the community and believes that given the right guidance and opportunities, local athletes can excel on a broader stage.

As Pedersen looks ahead to the 2023/2024 CCA varsity basketball season, he faces a unique challenge. The team will consist mostly of sophomores and younger players, following the departure of four senior starters from the previous season. Despite this hurdle, Pedersen remains optimistic and focuses on the potential within his young roster.

“We have some new players joining the team, and we will have a really young squad this year,” Pederson said. “However, if I had the opportunity to coach some of last year’s players from the beginning of their high school careers, I believe we could have gone all the way. We have exceptional talent here, and my role is to nurture and develop what is already present. I am genuinely excited to work with these young athletes who are stepping up to the plate this year. They will play a vital role in the growth and sustainability of our basketball program.” 

Pedersen’s impact at CCA extends beyond the court. CCA Headmaster Becky Baggett considers him a significant asset to the school.

“He is a very knowledgeable trainer in charge of our female athletes training,” Baggett said. “He is committed to our athletic program and is a great communicator with a unique ability to connect with people. Cris is positive, enthusiastic, goal oriented and has the respect of the athletes, faculty and staff. We are blessed to have him on staff. “

Pedersen’s love for basketball is deeply rooted in his upbringing. Growing up in Indiana, a state where basketball is held in the same high regard as football is in Alabama, and as the grandson of Indiana basketball Hall of Fame and Tulane Hall of Fame member Ralph Pedersen,  he witnessed firsthand the passion and devotion that the sport commands. Pedersen’s experiences in Indiana shaped his outlook on the sport and gave him a unique perspective that coupled with his own high school playing days, shaped his coaching philosophy and approach.

A passion for basketball that runs in Pedersen’s family is evident through the significant mark left on basketball by Pedersen’s grandfather as a player and as a coach.  His grandfather’s legacy serves as an inspiration for Cris as he continues to build his own coaching legacy at CCA.