3 former stars sharing floor
BLOOMSBURG - To gauge how good girls basketball has been in the area, specifically the caliber of individual players, look no further than Shippensburg University's women's basketball team.
Three former News-Item All-Area players, Lourdes' Jen Kalinowski, Line Mountain's Kasey Long and North Schuylkill's Caitlyn Deeter, are all seeing time for the Raiders.
Kalinowski had been leading the group in minutes, points and every other major statistical category but just a week before returning to familiar stomping grounds Wednesday at Bloomsburg University, suffered a stress fracture in her left foot.
With Kalinowski reduced to cheerleader, Deeter played the most in the Raiders' 70-40 loss to the 25th-ranked Huskies.
Deeter played a total of 11 minutes, scoring three points on 3-of-4 shooting from the foul line. Long played the last four minutes of the game and grabbed two rebounds.
The roles for all three are drastically different than the ones they had in high school, where all were their respective teams' main scoring threats.
But even with the recent success of area teams at the high school level, the trio represent a majority of players from the area at the college level (Shamokin's Tara Sabotchick is playing at Albright College and Mount Carmel's Danielle Bernini is playing at Gettysburg College), and all three being on the same team has definite advantages.
"It's nice to have people from our area, that I know and have the same style of play I do, go to the same school," Kalinowski said.
Even for Deeter, who didn't play against Lourdes or Line Mountain in high school, just being from the same geographic area made the transition this year easier.
"I didn't really know them," Deeter said. "I knew of them, but it made it a little easier. It made it more comfortable."
But that's about the only thing that's been easier.
Kalinowski is in her second year with the team and is the elder statesman of sorts compared to Deeter and Long, who are both freshmen, but all three were surprised at the level of dedication and time it would take once they got into the swing of things with the team, not to mention the tempo and tenacity of college basketball.
"At one point we were doing two-a-days," Kalinowski said. "We'd have a three-hour practice in the mornings and then come back for shooting practice. We have film and lifting, too.
"It is a lot of work. I wasn't expecting to come in and have that much work, but I think it's worth it."
Before her injury, Kalinowski had played 148 minutes, seventh most on the team, and scored 33 points.
Deeter, who was recruited, has played 67 minutes and scored 22 points, while Long, who was asked to join the team after a tryout, has played 25 minutes and scored four points.
Both are still learning the college game, which is faster with less room for error.
"Your body is moving 20 times faster and you have to control your movements and think about where your people are and talk," Long said.
"You have to think a lot faster," added Deeter.
Kalinowski was in their shoes last year.
"There's preseason and postseason," Kalinowski said. "In high school it wasn't as intense. The game now is so fast-paced. High school was laid back and you could kind of do what you want, but college is so pinpoint with everything.
"The hardest thing is communicating while you're playing. Talking and running is hard.
"I think we transitioned well into it. As soon as you start preseason, you feel like you're getting better or faster. And they (Kasey and Caitlyn) fell into it really well and picked it up easier."
Despite all three playing guard, and ostensibly competing for playing time, they realize the opportunities will be there and the bond they have forged already is more important.
"We cheer each other on," Long said. "We don't really compete, but we support each other because we're a team. Anytime someone does good we're not jealous of them."
And for those younger players in the area looking to follow in their footsteps, they have solid advice.
"Put yourself out there and work hard," Long said.
"You have to put extra time in, time when people aren't watching, to get better," Kalinowski said. "As soon as you come to college, you're at the bottom of the list."
What makes all the hard work worthwhile is coming back home with a chance to play in front of family and friends.