By Ryan Cameron
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
On the hardwood, a player’s value should not always be measured simply with point and rebound totals. Such is the case with Katelyn Loecker and her importance to the Oklahoma State women’s basketball team.
Delving deeper than the stat sheet, one will see a source of enthusiasm, passion and hard work for the Cowgirl program.
“First of all, she exemplifies what a true student-athlete ought to be,” OSU head coach Jim Littell said. “She does a great job in the classroom and on the floor. What makes Katelyn special is her work ethic and ability to be a great teammate. She brings a lot of energy to our program and is one of those players who tries to please her teammates as well as her coaches,”
“Katelyn is a player that has always paid a lot of attention to detail. She tries to do every little thing right on the floor. She really is a coach’s dream.”
Make no mistake about it. Loecker is not short on talent. Twice named the Gatorade Kansas Player of the Year, she led McPherson High School to a state title in 2012 and was inducted into the MHS Wall of Fame less than a year after finishing her distinguished prep career.
When it came time to pick a school, Loecker always envisioned herself staying in her home state before a fellow Kansan turned her attention toward OSU.
“It was kind of tough because I always thought I was going to go to school with a bunch of my friends. I figured I would stay in state,” Loecker said.
The Cowgirls had enjoyed previous recruiting success in the Sunflower State. So it was no surprise when Andover native and OSU’s all-time assist leader Tiffany Bias provided a different sort of helping hand in the process of Loecker becoming a Cowgirl.
“I have looked up to Tiff since I was a freshman in high school. I will always remember watching her play in the state championship game her senior year. After that, my high school coach showed me articles about her and how she decided on Oklahoma State. That was part of the reason I looked at OSU,” Loecker said.
In addition to the opportunity to play alongside a player she had long admired, Loecker’s initial trip to Stillwater showed signs of a home away from home, making OSU a desirable choice.
“On my first visit, the coaches were very welcoming and they reminded me of my high school coaches a lot. They seemed very fatherly, but they can get on you when they need to. Everybody here was very kind,” Loecker said.
While the Kansas duo only played together for one season, it was a memorable one.
The Cowgirls posted a 25-win campaign and reached the NCAA Sweet 16 for the third time in program history. For Loecker, getting to play with someone she had looked up to for the past four years could prove beneficial for her four as a collegian.
“Last year, I was able to learn so much from her that will help me become a better player and leader,” Loecker said.
It did not take long for the 6-0 sophomore to make her own impression on Bias as well.
“Kate is one of the best teammates I have played with because of who she is as a person and, of course, the energy she brings to the court. I am a big believer in energy and passion and that girl has it. There wasn't a time when she wasn't hustling for a rebound or a loose ball or jumping up and down when a teammate scored. I also don't remember a time that she didn't believe in me as a leader for Cowgirl basketball,” Bias said.
This past summer provided Loecker with a significant hurdle on her path to a more prominent role with the Cowgirls. After sustaining an injured shoulder, she underwent surgery, forcing her to miss the first half of the season. In typical Loecker fashion, she has not allowed her setback to deter her and has instead turned it into a positive and a learning experience.
“Appreciate what you have because you never know if you are going to lose it. Luckily for me in my situation, I can still come back and play. I know people that have gotten injured and can’t play at all,” Loecker said.
“I have learned a lot just watching. When I wasn’t able to do anything at all I was just trying to envision myself in game situations.”
As a freshman, Loecker found herself thrown into the fire repeatedly, playing in 33 of the squad’s games and learning what it takes to succeed in the nation’s most prominent women’s basketball conference.
“You have to pay attention to details and you have to play as hard as you can. If you want to win big games, the people with the most effort and enthusiasm will most likely win,” Loecker said.
While the Cowgirls have maintained their top 25 ranking through the first month of the season, the absence of Loecker has been felt and her team eagerly awaits her return.
“We need the energy that Katelyn brings, her ability to take charges and rebound and defend. We also need her to step up and be able to score some this year. We need her to get six to 10 points a night and find some putbacks and energy baskets. I think she is going to be able to do that,” Littell said.
“She is going to have to have the versatility to play a different couple of positions. We need her to play both the 3 and the 4 for us this year.”
In the meantime, Loecker has continued to prove her worth beyond the numbers and found ways to impact her squad from the sideline.
“I just try to stay positive through everything and keep everybody up when we have rough days. I try to bring energy, help our practices be efficient and try to get something out of every day. All of my teammates know I will be there for them if they need someone,” Loecker said.
Her infectious enthusiasm and unselfishness has not got gone unnoticed, just ask Bias.
“To have a teammate like Kate is a privilege. You don't find many people like Kate anymore who put the team before themselves,” Bias said.