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Sarah Kustok keeps shattering glass ceilings at big arenas

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Charlotte Hornets v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Back in September 2017, Sarah Kustok broke ground — and shattered a glass ceiling — when YES Network promoted her to the primary analyst job on Nets broadcasts. She thus became the first woman to sit in the second chair on any NBA franchise’s broadcast team. Others have followed, but the former forward and 3-point specialist for DePaul University will always hold that distinction of being first.

Then, two weeks ago, she did it again at the New York Emmy Awards. Kustok became the first woman to win an Emmy for her work as an analyst on Nets broadcasts. It was her first Emmy as well.

It was a big night overall for YES coverage of the Nets. Ian Eagle won his fifth straight Emmy for play-by-play and producer Frank DiGraci got his first individual Emmy. Moreover, Kustok and Eagle became the first broadcast team to sweep the play-by-play and analyst categories at the New York Emmys. None of that came as a surprise to any Nets fan.

Eagle, in fact, seemed more thrilled for his partner’s big win than his own!

“She brings an immense amount of knowledge about the league,” Eagle told the Nets official site. “Her insight isn’t limited to the Nets; she is on top of every opponent, full scouting report, what they do how they play, individual breakdowns. She’s always prepared.

“And then obviously from a chemistry standpoint it was instant because she was the sideline reporter for a few years before taking on this role. Everybody got to know her. She was part of the team, so the transition was not that big of a deal. Everyone knew that she could handle the role. It was just a matter of the public seeing it, the viewing public seeing it.”

Similarly, Kustok praised DiGraci, who has mentored her since the beginning of her YES career in 2012.

“I was thrilled for Frank winning as producer,” Kustok told Tom Dowd of the Nets. “He is so deserving and does so much for us, and for Ian. I think this is a depiction of who we are as a whole group, as a whole team. This Nets on YES family, that’s how it feels. We’re all as good as we are because of each other. Our truck is the best in the business. It was humbling. I have such respect for the New York market and everyone in it.”

Kustok, of course, understands that she’s a role model and often works with young women and girls in the community, trying to help them follow her path. She also appreciates the NBA where not only are there now women analysts on broadcasts but on the bench as assistant coaches. (In fact, the second woman to fill the analyst’s seat, Kara Lawson, moved from her position on the Wizards’ broadcast team to an assistant coaching job with the Celtics.)

“The NBA is so progressive in how they think about things,” said Kustok. “The amount of females in front offices, the amount of females on coaching staffs, females in different broadcast positions that you didn’t necessarily see before. It’s seeped into so many different areas, like support and performance staffs, not just with the Nets, but across the league. There’s still a ways to go, but I love the idea that you are trying to put the most competent people in a role regardless of gender. That’s a big part of all of it for all of us.”

Kustok has expanded her presence on other broadcasts. She’s also become a regular presence on FOX Sport’s 1’s “First Things First” morning show along with serving as a regular slate of Big East college basketball games.

Perhaps her biggest asset is her background as an athlete. In high school, she was the Chicagoland’s female player of the year. Dwyane Wade was the male.

“Shooting and the basketball hoop, whether it was out in our driveway or down the street in the park, it truly was my sanctuary,” she told Dowd. “I would shoot from the time I was as small as I can remember. Me and my brother (Zak) we would play and shoot and play one-on-one. We’d play with kids at the park. Constantly playing. I think I became such a good shooter because that’s all I was ever doing. If I had a bad game, go shoot all night or wake up and shoot.

“However, for as much as people tease me now about that, most of what I was able to do was predicated on defense. I think maybe my demeanor in real life as a person is so vastly different than who I was on the basketball court, but that’s what helped me become who I was and get to the points I was at.”