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Considering her father, Bud, was a college All-American, it’s safe to assume basketball came naturally to Katelyn Henson. “My dad is so knowledgeable about the sport and I can always look up to him and seek advice,” Henson says.
Though the game is woven into her genes to a certain extent, Henson has worked hard to develop and enhance all aspects of her play. “I actually hated basketball for awhile because my dad made me do it,” Henson recalls, “but it turned out to be great. I’ve met great people and learned so much and I hope to be a coach one day.”
Below the surface of this apparent happy ending lies a much deeper story.
Imagine being a senior year in high school, with the pressure of a college decision looming, at the same time balancing classes, athletics and music. It’s a situation not uncommon to many, Henson included. However, a twist was thrown into her life that was unforeseeable, ill-timed and in many ways life-altering. A torn ACL spelled an abrupt end to her senior season and more significantly, threatened to end her basketball career.
Henson has a combination of qualities that are difficult to come by in people her age. Qualities such as perseverance, discipline and a refusal to give up. Together, they suggest that Henson was convinced she hadn’t seen the last of the hardwood.
“Looking back on it, I am actually really thankful that it happened,” Henson says about her devastating injury. “When I wasn’t able to play, I learned how much I loved basketball and it ended up really changing my attitude towards the game.”
While her toughness and motivation burned brightest through her recovery, Linfield coach Robin Potera-Haskins recognizes another trait Henson displays that goes deeper into who Henson is as a person. “She generally loves and cares for people and she puts her whole heart into everything she does.”
The fact that Potera-Haskins had the ability to understand Henson beyond the surface suggests a strong connection between the two from the start.
Henson’s commitment to the program was established before she even arrived on campus, within the recruiting process. “Other coaches stopped recruiting me, but (Potera-Haskins) stuck with me and helped me through the whole thing,” Henson says, referencing the injury that cost her the entirety of her high school senior season. “I really liked (Linfield’s) campus, and the way she treated me through the process was a big factor in my decision to come here.”
Fellow teammate and role model Kaely Maltman echoed Potera-Haskins comments, saying, “Katelyn is the hardest worker on the team without a doubt, and she leads by example.”
“I look up to Kaely a lot, and she is always so encouraging,” Henson said of her co-captain. “I owe a lot of my own success to her.”
Natural-born leaders are those who put their skills to work on the court and prove their integrity through their actions off of it. On top of that, they also display something extra that distinguishes their personality. For the Wildcats, this “it factor” Henson possesses is signified within her simple but fitting nickname: ‘Mo.’
“It started in 7th grade because I was super slow and kind of goofy. People started calling me ‘Slow-Mo,’ and then it got shortened to ‘Mo,’” Henson remembers.
Henson liked the comical alter-ego, and it has followed her ever since. “I mentioned it when I first got to Linfield and everyone here liked it, so it stuck.”
“There were a lot of ‘K’ names on the team, so it kind of stuck as an alternative,” Maltman says.
Whether it’s ‘Mo’ or just plain old ‘Katelyn,’ Henson has already assumed the role as team captain of the Wildcats. “On the court, I want to look to be the best teammate possible, and try to stay positive through adversity,” Henson says about her duties as a leader.
Henson also leads on the court statistically, pacing the team with 7.2 rebounds and 6.8 points per game through the young season.
“I know she is going to give it her all in every possession and that really helps my confidence,” senior guard Nicole Barton says.
Henson is only a sophomore, and everyone involved in the program – herself included – is thrilled about the prospect of her energetic presence remaining a cornerstone for two more years. “She has shown a lot of maturity and she is way beyond her years in terms of attitude and work ethic,” Potera-Haskins said. “She will keep developing her mentality of becoming a scorer, and she will always be versatile at many different positions.”
“Katelyn has really stepped up, not only vocally, but she goes the extra mile to improve the program,” Maltman says. “We feed off of each others’ energy, and we both know what we are going to do before we do it,” Maltman says, reflecting on the positive chemistry between the two.
While Henson’s skills on the court represent a big part of who she is, they don’t tell the whole story. The 5-foot-11 guard is also an accomplished musician who enjoys performing with the Linfield College Jazz Band. “My mom (Cynthia) was a music major, so I have been in band for a long time,” the baritone saxophonist said.
An anthropology and mass communication double major, Henson has aspirations of attending graduate school and pursuing a career in photo journalism. “I am really interested in National Geographic and I would love to work for a magazine in the future,” Henson says.
With more than two full seasons left on the horizon, Henson will continue to channel her inner ‘Mo,’ and lead the ‘Cats through her work ethic, positive attitude and motivation to keep getting better.
What ‘Mo’ could the ‘Cats ask for?
-- Evan O'Kelly '13