It’s no secret that freshman Missouri guard Kathleen Gilbert has impressive talent. Although injuries halted her freshman and redshirt sophomore seasons, she showed flashes of promise that proved why she was a top-25/30 recruit in the 2018 class.
As fans later discovered, 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 posts.
Stats and injuries can only tell so much about an athlete, and fans are quick to make assumptions based on what’s written on paper. But who is the man? I had the opportunity to speak with a few of her former teammates and WNBA stars. Read what Dallas Wings guards Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabray and Las Vegas Aces guard Jackie Young had to say about Mizzou’s new guard.
Eric and Marina are seniors and Jackie is a junior when Kate joins the prestigious Notre Dame women’s basketball team in the national championship in 2018. Their time together only lasted a few months, but Kate’s influence reached far beyond their short time together.
In basketball, your team is like a family. No matter your age, where you come from, veteran, freshman or transfer. A bond is formed that is hard to break. That’s how all three WNBA stars feel about Kate.
Being yourself is critical to building a bond with your team. According to Mabry, Kate had no problem doing so. She said: “She is a free spirit and exudes a lot of positivity. Even through all of her injuries, she remains positive. “It was a pleasure when she was on the bench. She continued to support the team wherever she could.”
For Ogunbowale, the bond felt like a sisterhood. “She was like a little sister,” she said. She always supported people and was a lot of fun. Arike’s passion for Kate runs deeper than the court or the individual. The joy extends to motherhood and second chances. Having a child can change a person’s life for the better and opens a new chapter full of second chances.
The young man believes about Gilbert as a person. “She was a really good teammate and fun to be around. She brings a lot of energy.” Jackie remembers Kate as always enthusiastic and doing her best for the team no matter what role she had.
The feeling was almost the same with the three of them. Kate was a supportive, fun, hardworking and energetic person who poured her heart into the team both on and off the court.
On the court
Notre Dame fans and opposing fans saw how versatile Gilbert was during her healthy 2018 season. Although they play different positions, Young taught Gilbert’s shooting guard skills, making her a versatile combo guard. When you learn with the 6’0 Olympic gold medalist and WNBA champion, you know you’ll be learning valuable skills starting September 18th.
Mizzou finished dead in second last season with 5.6 steals per game. Last season, the Tigers’ leader, Mama Dembele, averaged 1.4 steals per game, ranking 19th. During the 2019-20 season, Gilbert recorded 61 total steals. The back court of Dembele and Gilbert in defense will prove lethal with his moves at that end, as Jackie recalled.
Gilbert scored 14 points off the bench against Gonzaga.
Arik emphasizes her versatility but also talks about how her height hurts Mizzou. Tigers need height. Despite being 5’10, Kate crashed the boards in a similar fashion to former Tiger Aija Blackwell. Will she be expected to fill the huge shoes left by Blackwell? Maybe not, but she will be an important part of the return game. In the 2019–20 season, Gilbert collected a season/career high eight rebounds against North Carolina and continued to hold the season high in boards.
“She’s a big keeper,” said Arik, who stands 5’8. “I know you’re older than me. She gives them a small amount at the guard’s place,” she said. Her skills are unique, and according to Aric, Marina and Jackie, they fit their style of play and the challenge of the SEC.
Gilbert scored 19 goals in this game. For her special 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 a lot of excitement around the nation for Mizzou’s new point guard, both on and off the court, for great reasons. Her previous leadership and experience on some of the NCAA’s greatest teams will pay off for the Tigers. Her infectious personality and fresh start can bring not only herself but the entire team and culture together. Tigers fans have plenty of reasons to be excited.