Notre Dame hoops commit Katlyn Gilbert transitioning into leading role

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

It was interesting to watch Homestead’s Karissa McLaughlin and Heritage Christian’s Katlyn Gilbert in last Saturday’s girls basketball Northern Semistate at Crown Point.

Interesting to watch, hard not to compare.

With any preconceived knowledge, if someone said one of those two guards was going to play at Notre Dame, McLaughlin would have been the logical choice.

The 5-foot-8 senior commanded the floor and dominated the game – 30 points, 20 by halftime, and an inspired defensive effort that yielded four steals – in a 23-point Class 4-A win over Northridge. Probably could have scored 40 if she would have wanted.

Wrong. McLaughlin will be headed to the University of Florida next year.

It’s Gilbert, a 6-0 junior, who is ticketed for Notre Dame in a couple years.

Gilbert struggled in a three-point Class 3-A loss to South Bend Saint Joseph. Early foul trouble (she picked up her third in the second quarter setting an illegal screen, of all things), sporadic shooting (nothing beyond the arc), defense that lacked purpose and motivation at times, and 21 points – as well as a missed layup that could have been the game-winner.

The difference between the two? A year.

After Homestead’s convincing win, Spartans coach Rod Parker took a while to ponder why his team was so much better than the one that lost to Penn in the semistate last year, 50-45.

The difference? A year.

McLaughlin scored 21 points against the Kingsmen last year, but was hardly special. She didn’t dominate the game. That belonged to Penn’s Camryn Buhr, a senior at the time. McLaughlin hadn’t yet grown into the role of the primary force on a good team.

That’s the battle Gilbert seemed to be waging Saturday.

While the Eagles were winning three straight state titles, Tyasha Harris – now a freshman at South Carolina – was that special player. Gilbert only had to be a sidekick; supporting cast.

At least Saturday, Gilbert struggled with being the leading lady.

“(Gilbert) has all the potential in the world,” said Heritage Christian coach Rick Risinger. “She can be that dominant player on the floor.

“This season was the first time she had to have that No. 1 slot. Additional responsibilities come with that. She has to make her teammates better. That’s what has to come to her as a senior.”

“This is the first time I’ve had to be the ‘dog’ of the team,” Gilbert said, using slang for that dominant role. “It’s different. You have to have the mentality that nobody is going to stop you.

“I feel I can take on that challenge. It’s something new, but I’ve had some good experience and learned a lot of lessons along the way. All that will help.”

Tough transition from a pup to a dog.

“I can see why Muffet wanted her,” said Saint Joe coach Sydney Smallbone. “She can score from anywhere. She has a scorer’s mentality. Her focus is to win every possession – no matter what she has to do.

“She’s good.”

And, most likely, she’s going to get better.

Heritage Christian’s Katlyn Gilbert (10) grabs a rebound during the Saint Joseph vs. Heritage Christian girls semistate basketball game at Crown Point Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. Tribune photo/MICHAEL CATERINA