Katlyn Gilbert Aiming For USA U17 Roster Spot
For 5-foot-11 guard Katlyn Gilbert (Heritage Christian H.S./Indianapolis, Ind.), and 40 other players, making it through three rounds of roster reductions at the 2016 USA Basketball Women’s U17 World Championship Team Trials has been no small feat.
Trials began on May 26 with 139 hopefuls, and Gilbert on Sunday morning learned she was one of 41 players who would compete in two more trials sessions before finalists are announced on Monday morning.
“I feel like it could go better, but I’m proud of what I’ve been doing,” Gilbert said. “I feel like I haven’t been playing my best game, but, obviously, I’ve been playing good enough.
“Probably facilitate the ball more, create more opportunities, either for me scoring, or helping someone else score,” she explained when asked what she would like to improve. “It’s a lot of nerves, and it’s it’s a lot of good competition. I just got to get past my nerves.”
Gilbert is at trials in 2016 after having also taken part in trials last year for the 2015 USA Basketball Women’s U16 National Team.
“Last year, I think I did okay, but I feel like I’ve done better (this year),” said Gilbert, who is 16 years old. “There is a lot better competition, too. Everybody stepped up their game.”
“Everybody,” includes Gilbert, who prepared for trials with a new trainer and a new focus after her experience in 2015.
“He has been helping me more with scoring and helping other people score,” Gilbert said. “Last year, I feel like I wasn’t an offensive player. This year, I feel like I’ve been a defensive and an offensive player, so I’ve played on both sides of the ball.”
She also arrived at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado with a second-straight Indiana 3A state title under her belt. She averaged 12.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game to help her team to a 26-4 record in 2015-16.
“It was pretty amazing,” Gilbert said of the feeling of her second state title. “The first year, I feel like I didn’t contribute as much to the team, because we had a lot of seniors, and they were the scorers. This year, I feel like I helped my team in scoring and on defense, and I felt like a bigger part of the team.”
State titles are fairly common amongst players at the 2016 USA Women’s U17 Trials, which feature the top players from around the country who are 17 years old or younger. That level of competition is not something Gilbert wants to shy away from.
“I feel like I can use this to compare myself, and how I need to get better and what other things I need to work on,” she said. “But, it’s also a good experience to just become close with everybody who is good in my sport.”
It also does not matter to her whether people expect her to succeed or not. In fact, she said
she draws inspiration from past failures and being doubted.
“There are just a lot of people back home, they doubt me and have doubt in me,” explained Gilbert. “They didn’t expect me to come back this year. Now, hopefully I can make the team and prove my doubters wrong.”
She also has a deeply personal motivation to keep her focused.
“It would mean a lot,” she said of the prospect of making the team. “My uncle, he passed away a couple of years ago. He wanted me to make this team last year, and I would dedicate making the team to him.”
With an inspiration like that, it would be hard not to root for Gilbert. But, do her a favor, and doubt her anyway. That will only help fuel her fire.