Not lengthy after Michigan received the Women’s NIT championship final April, capturing guard Katelynn Flaherty strolled into coach Kim Barnes Arico’s workplace for the commonplace participant/coach postseason assembly, looking forward to subsequent season.
The Wolverines had been shedding workforce captain and four-year beginning point guard Siera Thompson to commencement, and Arico debated whether or not to entrust the job to incoming freshman Deja Church or another person. In that assembly, Flaherty, a 2,000-point scorer heading into her senior yr, stunned Arico by volunteering to switch Thompson.
Arico was skeptical. Flaherty had been a point guard in highschool in New Jersey, however this was the Big Ten — quicker, extra bodily, with extra on the line. Michigan wanted Flaherty to attain huge to enhance junior Hallie Thome inside, and asking Flaherty to do this whereas running the offense appeared an excessive amount of. Arico knew this from private expertise as a guard at Montclair (New Jersey) State University in the early 1990s.
But Flaherty was adamant: I will work this summer time on ballhandling and decision-making. I’ve obtained this. Trust me.
Eventually, Arico did.
“Usually every time Katelynn sets her mind to something and has a plan,” Arico stated, “she’s been able to reach that goal.”
It hasn’t been simple. Five instances this season Flaherty dedicated eight or extra turnovers in a sport, with a season-high 10 in a Feb. four loss at Rutgers. Her assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.07 is not the biggest. But for the most half, Flaherty discovered methods to attain, distribute the ball and assist the Wolverines win.
Shuttling between the point and the wing, she averaged 23.2 factors per sport, fifth-best nationally, whereas capturing 41.eight % on Three-pointers. Earlier this season Flaherty surpassed Glen Rice as Michigan’s profession scoring chief for women and men; she since pushed her whole to 2,673 factors. A 3-time first-team All-Big Ten choice, Flaherty wants seven Three-pointers to affix Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell as the solely Division I ladies with 400 treys in a profession.
Most importantly, the 22-9 Wolverines earned their first NCAA event bid since 2013, Arico’s first season in Ann Arbor. Michigan is the No. 7 seed in the Lexington Regional, and faces 10th-seeded Northern Colorado in Waco, Texas, in the first spherical Friday.
“It’s definitely been a transition, especially trying to play it at the college level,” Flaherty stated. “It’s rather a lot quicker than it’s in highschool.
“The greatest factor for me is, the previous three years I had a point guard who obtained me nice photographs and obtained me the ball in nice place, and my job was simply rating or get fouled or make an simple cross. Calling the proper performs, placing individuals in the proper positions whereas additionally making an attempt to attain, making the proper choices at sure factors in the sport, that is been the greatest transition.”
Flaherty — whose Wolverines might doubtlessly face second-seeded Baylor in the second spherical — had a sensible consideration as effectively. At 5-foot-7, she is not tall sufficient to play wing in the WNBA or in Europe. Her future must be at the point. Being in a position to rating helps her possibilities, since in the present day’s professional sport calls for point guards be offensive threats, too.
“At the subsequent degree, your 2s [shooting guards] and your 3s [small forwards] are large,” Flaherty said. “I knew I needed to run the point, and I assumed this was good alternative to get used to it. That was in the again of my thoughts, to be taught this place for a yr from Coach Arico relatively than making an attempt to be taught at the subsequent degree and get thrown into it straight away.”
Bloodlines advised Flaherty had the aptitude. Her father, Tom, performed guard at Seton Hall in the 1970s for Bill Raftery, now a CBS analyst, and coached highschool basketball in New Jersey for greater than 15 years. Her mom, Lynn, was a guard at the Division III College of New Jersey. Katelynn primarily ran point at Manasquan and Point Pleasant Beach excessive colleges on the Jersey Shore, successful state titles with every college. At Manasquan, she shared the backcourt with future Notre Dame standouts Micheala and Marina Mabrey.
Tom Flaherty and a accomplice function HoopsAmerica, a basketball academy with a number of New Jersey areas. Last summer time Katelynn meant to work on her ballhandling at HoopsAmerica and wherever else she might discover video games.
But every week into the summer time, Tom stated, Katelynn suffered a herniated disk in her again when a defender clobbered her going for a layup at HoopsAmerica. Contact drills and pickup video games had been out for six weeks whereas Katelyn obtained bodily remedy. So Tom had Katelynn dribble a basketball whereas strolling a mile on daily basis close to their Point Pleasant Beach dwelling, together with hoisting 800 to 1,000 photographs a day.
“It did not look promising in any respect,” Tom said. “We had been diligent. We did not go too onerous. But with bodily remedy and with basketball capturing, strolling round the block, we had been doing 3½ hours a day.”
The last three weeks, Katelynn eased again into two-on-two and three-on-three pickup video games, then full court docket. Games typically passed off at Orchard Park, a calmly used outside court docket with lights her father found years earlier in Wall Township, two cities over from Point Pleasant Beach.
“My dad has been my coach mainly my entire life, and he nonetheless performs a significant function,” Katelynn said. “When I’m going dwelling I work out 4 or 5 hours a day. Numerous that’s enjoying video games and likewise getting photographs up. But the ballhandling side, it is extra discovering extra video games, five-on-fives, full-court pickup video games. That actually helped me out rather a lot.”
When Katelynn returned to Ann Arbor, Arico ran her by so-called “blood drills,” requiring her to learn and react to defenses whereas being bumped or double-teamed. There was movie work, too, with Arico displaying Flaherty clips of former Washington standout Kelsey Plum coming off ball screens.
“She’s all the time going through people who find themselves [taller] and stronger than her,” Arico said. “She’s obtained to make use of her creativity and ballhandling to get previous larger, quicker individuals. We work on it on daily basis. We put guys [male practice players] on her rather a lot, which she hates, however we predict it is useful. We’ve completed plenty of issues so she’s ready for any state of affairs she might see.”
Flaherty confirmed a few of that development in a late-season sport at Minnesota, although the Wolverines misplaced. Early on, Flaherty delivered a quick bounce cross inside to Akienreh Johnson for a layup, the first of Flaherty’s six assists in the first half.
With Michigan trailing at halftime, Flaherty switched to the wing and appeared extra for her shot. Flaherty heated up shortly, hitting 5 Three-pointers amongst 19 factors in the second half. None of Minnesota’s guards might cease her, so in the fourth quarter Minnesota coach Marlene Stollings put 6-foot-2 ahead Taiye Bello on her. Michigan took a nine-point lead in the third quarter however could not maintain on, shedding 93-87. Flaherty completed with 26 factors and 7 assists, together with a manageable 4 turnovers.
“I feel the transition has gone rather well,” Flaherty said. “Some video games, it has been robust. But for me it has been nice. It’s undoubtedly a studying expertise. I’ve turn into rather a lot higher passer, rather a lot higher ball handler and playmaker. I feel it is actually added to my sport.”
At instances, Flaherty nonetheless struggles with decision-making and ballhandling. The transition stays a piece in progress. Arico praised Flaherty’s diligence in correcting errors and transferring ahead.
“This is her first season of dealing with the ball all the time, and he or she’s going in opposition to a lot strain,” Arico said. “There are days when she turns the ball over, and the subsequent day she’s again in the gymnasium and watching the movie. It’s not like, ‘That’s OK, I will be positive.’ It’s, ‘What can I watch, how can I get higher?’ She invests an unbelievable period of time in all points which are going to assist her achieve success.”