It’s no secret that Missouri’s new ranger, Caitlin Gilbert, has an amazing talent. Despite injuries that have halted freshman and sophomore seasons, she showed flashes of promise that proved why she was among the top 25/30 recruits of the class of 2018.
As fans later found out, Gilbert left Notre Dame Last season due to pregnancy and later gave birth to a son who was featured prominently in one of her Mizzou publications.
Statistics and injuries can only say a lot about the athlete, and fans are quick to make assumptions about what is written on paper. But what about who the person is? I had the honor of speaking to a few of her former teammates and WNBA stars. Read what the Dallas Wings guards Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey, as well as Las Vegas Aces guard Jackie Young, have to say about Mizzou’s newest guard.
Eric and Marina were old men while Jackie was young when Kate joined the legendary Notre Dame women’s basketball team after a national championship in 2018. Their time together lasted only a few months but Kate’s impact went way beyond the little time they spent together.
In basketball, your team is like family. Regardless of your age, where you come from, whether or not you are a veteran, novice, transitional. A bond that is hard to break is made. This is how the three WNBA stars feel about Kate.
Being yourself is crucial to creating bonds with your team. Kate had no problem doing this according to Mabry. “She’s a free spirit and embodies a lot of positivity,” she said. Even during her injuries, she remained positive. “When she was on the bench, she rejoiced. She continued to support the team wherever she could.”
For Ogunbowale, the association felt like a brotherhood. “She was like a little sister,” she said. “She was always supportive of people and was so much fun.” Eric Kate’s excitement goes deeper than it does on the court or in person. Excitement reaches motherhood and second chances. Having a baby can change a person’s life for the better and open a new chapter full of second chances.
Young believes the same about Gilbert as a person. “She was definitely a good fellow and it was fun to be around. She brings a lot of energy.” Jackie remembers that Kate has always been passionate and does everything she can for the team no matter what role she takes.
The feelings were almost identical for the three of them. Kate was a supportive, fun, interactive and energetic person who poured her heart into the team on and off the field.
In the field
Notre Dame fans and opposing fans in that regard saw how dynamic Gilbert was in her healthy season in 2018. The 5’10 “big keeper” can do more than just get past the point. Although they played different situations, Young taught Gilbert the archery ranger’s skills that made her a versatile combo garrison. When you’re learning against a 6’0 Olympic gold medalist and WNBA champion with Aces, as of September 18, you know you’ll be learning valuable skills.
Mizzou finished dead last in the SEC last season with a steal per game of 5.6. The Tigers’ captain last season was teammate Mama Dembele, who ranked 19th with a total of 44 steals with an average of 1.4 per game. In the 2019-20 season, Gilbert recorded 61 steals in total with her season-high of six against Duke. The backcourt for Dembele and Gilbert on the defensive end will prove fatal with their action at that end as Jackie recalls.
Gilbert scored 14 points from the bench against Gonzaga.
Arike emphasized her versatility but also how her length would affect Mizzou. Tigers need to rise. Although she’s 5’10, Kate smashed the boards in a very similar way to that of former Tiger, Asia Blackwell. Are you expected to fill those huge shoes left by Blackwell? Probably not, but it will be an important part of the throwback game. In the 2019-20 season, Gilbert collected eight season/career-higher rebounds against North Carolina and went on to capture a large number of boards throughout the season.
“She’s a great bouncer,” said Ariki, who is 5’8. “I know she’s taller than me. You’ll be able to give them a bit of size in the sentry position,” she said. Her skill set is unique, and according to Eric, Marina, and Jackie, she’ll complement Mizu’s playstyle and SEC challenge.
Gilbert scored 19 in this match. For its own highlights see 0:53-57, 1:57-2:01, 2:14-2:20, 2:45-2:50, 3:13-3:30, 4:40- 4:44 and 7:06-7:11.
There’s plenty of excitement across the country for Mizzou’s newest guard for good reasons both on and off the field. Her veteran leadership and experience against some of the NCAA’s greatest teams will prove fruitful for the Tigers. Her infectious personality and fresh start can mobilize not only herself but the entire team and culture. Tiger fans have plenty of reasons to be excited.