'Vibe' was right for recruit Katlyn Gilbert to choose Notre Dame

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

Big decisions these days for high school juniors typically involve finally getting a driver’s license.

College? Heck, checking that box can wait another year. Sometimes longer.

Heritage Christian junior Katlyn Gilbert is the exception.

Still a month away from being tested on the finer points of parallel parking, Gilbert finalized plans Tuesday for life after high school when she committed to play basketball at Notre Dame.

Recruited by many of the nation’s elite — Connecticut, Purdue, South Carolina — the 5-foot-10 guard first started getting good vibes from coach Muffet McGraw and her staff at the start of her sophomore year. That’s when Gilbert noticed coaches sporting the Irish Under Armour gear more and more in the stands of her school on the northeast edge of Indianapolis. That’s when they started coaxing her to come up U.S. 31 for campus visits. And when she did for the first time last fall for a football game, she fell hard for everything Irish.

All she needed was a scholarship offer, and Gilbert was all in.

After Tuesday, she’s all in.

“It was the vibe that you get up there,” Gilbert said Wednesday afternoon by telephone before stepping into her daily hour-long pickup game against members of the Heritage Christian boys team barely 15 minutes after the school day’s final bell. “I don’t know how to put it. It’s just a great feeling that you get when you visit there.”

Notre Dame kept Gilbert on its recruiting radar throughout a sophomore season in which she averaged 12.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.0 steals on a Heritage Christian team that finished 26-4 and won a third straight state championship. McGraw paid Gilbert a home visit last week, which basically ended her recruitment. The more she wanted to sort through all her college options, the more she realized Notre Dame offered everything she could ever want in a school.

“A lot of people would kill to have the opportunities and offers that I have,” Gilbert said. “It’s just a blessing.”

Good guards with deep Indiana roots fit the Notre Dame roster well. Gilbert played against sophomore guard Ali Patberg two years ago. Heritage lost to Patberg’s Columbus North squad. She also attended a basketball camp at Indiana University with Irish freshman guard Jackie Young, who won Miss Basketball last spring at Princeton High School in Southern Indiana.

Patberg will be a senior and Young a junior when Gilbert finally gets to South Bend.

A three-star recruit not ranked in ESPN’s Top 25 and a four-and-a-half star recruit slotted as the No. 17 talent in the class of 2018 by ProspectsNation.com, Gilbert is the first piece of Notre Dame’s 2018 recruiting puzzle. She will sign her letter of intent in November 2017 – two months into her senior year.

McGraw is prohibited under NCAA recruiting regulations from commenting on Gilbert until that time.

“Notre Dame fits extremely well for her basketball skills and her personality and attitude toward basketball,” said Heritage Christian coach Rick Risinger. “In the end, she could have probably picked any school that she wanted to go to.”

In the beginning, Gilbert thought that school was Evansville. She offered the Purple Aces a verbal commitment while still in seventh grade. But a year later, as her game got better, she decommitted.

“I just wanted to keep my options open,” she said.

Even with the early attention, Gilbert never took seriously the thought that she could go to college, basically of her choice, for free because of basketball. Now that she can, she wishes the Heritage Christian season started in two days instead of nearly two more months.

“It’s a load off me to get the pressure off where I can just focus on getting better,” she said. “I’m so happy.

“I would give anything for the season to start today.”

Gilbert gets the next two seasons to get stronger and further grow her game. She already can play any of the five positions on the floor. With the graduation of former Heritage Christian standout guard Tyasha Harris, a five-star recruit who will play this season at South Carolina, Gilbert will be expected to rotate into more of a leadership role. Risinger has no worries about that transition.

Just as she did last year, when Heritage made the jump from Class 2-A up to 3-A because of its sustained run of wins, Gilbert should adapt and adjust and succeed.

“She’ll take it to the next level,” Risinger said. “She loves basketball, loves to work at it.

“She can play against anybody.”


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Indianapolis Heritage Christian standout guard Katlyn Gilbert verbally committed to the Notre Dame women's basketball program on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of wiseeyesports.com)