After redshirting her freshman year because of a knee injury, Ohio guard Katie Barker is ready to begin her development as a college player.

Barker’s redshirt season, however, was about observation. Without being able to participate in practices, she used that time to learn from one of the leaders who helped turn the Ohio program around.

“Sitting out in practice, I’d just really try to watch one main person,” Barker said. “Last year I really looked up to (Kiyana Black) and just tried to watch KB.”

Black was an apt choice for Barker to study. Besides Black being the best player on the team, Barker holds the record for career three-pointers at Cary-Grove High School in Cary, Illinois. Black broke the Ohio and Mid-American Conference records for three-pointers in a season last year.

Not only that, but coach Bob Boldon’s most immediate goal for Barker’s improvement is on defense, which is where Barker said she watched Black closely. Barker’s time off last season is already yielding some positive returns in that regard.

She has already impressed Boldon with her knowledge of Ohio’s defensive rotations despite never having made one herself. Because of this development, the player-coach relationship has also taken a step forward.

“Katie loves to be coached,” Boldon said. “She wants to know what’s going on. She’s a very easy person to coach. She’s very cerebral about our rotations and understands when she makes mistakes, so she’s fun to coach in that regard because of her level of understanding of what’s gong on.”

Though she understands the strategy, it will take time for Barker to implement her knowledge of Ohio’s defense at game speed. Boldon said Barker’s knee robbed her of the imperative repetition that would help her make the defensive reads in real time, but he has already seen tremendous growth in that realm now that Barker is healthy.

Barker’s initiative to make productive use of her injury gives a glimpse into what she could mean to Ohio in the future. Barker knows there is only one upperclassman on the team who will fill the role of the six seniors that leave after this season, and carrying leadership responsibility early in her career would be nothing new.

“I was a captain of my high school team as a sophomore so I started developing leadership skills in high school,” Barker said. “Next year, we don’t really have that many upperclassmen so I just wanna try to take on that role earlier and become a better leader.”

The kind of complete player that Boldon envisions Barker potentially becoming takes time to mold. Boldon is confident Barker can become that player, but he also isn’t underselling the immediate impact she can have on the team.

“Today, she’s a tremendous shooter,” Boldon said. “I don’t want to discard that level of importance.”

Barker is both excited and nervous to compete again. It’s her shooting that will get her minutes to begin with, but it’s the potential additions to her game that have Boldon so excited about a redshirt freshman coming off a season-ending knee injury. 

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