Dec. 18, 2002
by Chris Masters
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Less than a week into her first season at Notre Dame, Katy Flecky went home. She and her Irish teammates were enjoying Thanksgiving dinner at the Flecky’s house in Lone Tree, Colo., not far from Highlands Ranch High School, where Katy had blossomed into a prep superstar. A quick trip around the Flecky house told the tale of Katy’s early success — the trophies, the photos and the newspaper clippings, all detailing her evolution into a high school All-American and a two-time Colorado Miss Basketball selection.
However, on this late November afternoon in 2001, Flecky was a different player from the one who had suited up in the familiar blue and white Highlands Ranch jersey and dazzled fans on the Front Range for the previous four years. Instead, she was one component in a group of talented newcomers plucked from all corners of the country to make up what many considered to be the finest freshman recruiting class in Notre Dame history.
No longer was Flecky the focus of her team’s offense and every opponent’s best defense. In fact, for a good portion of her rookie season at Notre Dame, she wasn’t even a starter. It was a change that took time to adjust to for the 6-2 forward.
“What really got me early on was having to balance school, basketball and a social life,” Flecky said.
“I also didn’t get the head start that most of my teammates got because I didn’t come in early for summer school. That made the transition a little more challenging.”
For the first three months of last season, Flecky came off the bench for the Irish, playing less than 12 minutes per game. It was an unusual position for someone with her pedigree. Then, during a mid-February game against St. John’s, Flecky’s freshman teammate, Jacqueline Batteast, went down with a knee injury. Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw needed a replacement, and Flecky jumped at the opportunity.
She started the final seven games of the season in place of Batteast, averaging 6.7 points per game in those contests. In that St. John’s game, she stepped in and registered her first career double-double with 12 points and a career-high 10 rebounds. Nine days later at Georgetown, Flecky gave Irish fans a glimpse of the future, scoring a season-high 14 points and earning BIG EAST Rookie of the Week honors.
“When Jackie was out with her injury, Katy stepped in and was determined to keep us moving in the right direction,” McGraw said.
“Katy has so much talent, as well as a burning desire to succeed every time out. She got her chance and certainly, she made the most out of it.”
“I knew that I had to step up for Jackie because she is one of our go-to players,” Flecky added.
“It was a good challenge for me and it gave me a little taste of the kind of college player I could be.”
Having capitalized on the chance to prove herself, Flecky set out to improve her skills and crack the Notre Dame starting lineup on a permanent basis. Working with Irish associate coach Carol Owens, Flecky began to evolve into a strong force on the blocks. Her progress was evident on Notre Dame’s tour of Italy last summer, when she averaged 10 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. It became even more apparent during preseason practices, leading McGraw to label the sophomore forward as the team’s most improved player.
“Katy easily made the biggest jump from the time last season ended until the time we got to Italy,” the Irish head coach said.
“We saw the potential she has to be an impact player for us.”
By the time Notre Dame took the floor for its season opener against Cleveland State on Nov. 26, Flecky was a fixture in the Irish starting lineup. She rewarded the patience shown by McGraw and Owens, scoring a career-high 22 points and collecting eight rebounds in a 107-65 Notre Dame victory. Since then, she has been among the most consistent offensive threats for the Irish, ranking third on the team in scoring (12.2 ppg.), fourth in rebounding (4.8 rpg.) and first in field goal percentage (.605). She has scored in double figures in five of Notre Dame’s first six games after reaching double digits just three times during her freshman season.
“Before I came here, I thought I had the post position pretty well figured out,” Flecky said.
“Since then, I’ve learned little intricacies about the post game that I didn’t even think were a part of basketball. The little things that Coach Owens teaches me are what really excite me. I always learn new things from her in practice, and she always pushes us to keep going and getting better.”
Her parents, Teresa and Bill, are regular fixtures at their daughter’s games. Often times, they can be spotted with wide grins on their faces — it’s as if they have been privy to the secret that is Katy’s talent all along and the rest of the world is just now realizing it.
The photos and the newspaper clippings still line the walls at their home in Colorado. However, they now tell the story of a rising college basketball star who may just be one of the catalysts in Notre Dame’s next ascension to the championship throne.
— ND —