Caitlyn Kroll hadn’t played a meaningful basketball game since the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
In her last game with St. Francis, the Red Flashes matched up with top-seeded Connecticut in the first round on March, 17 2018. Two months after the loss to the Huskies, it was announced that Kroll had transferred to Ohio.
Coming to the Bobcats meant that she had to sit out the 2018-19 season because of the NCAA transfer rules. It was Kroll’s second time sitting out a full season in college after she missed all of her freshman season with St. Francis with an injury.
Kroll was excited to have finally played a full-speed game of basketball for the first time in a year and a half after Ohio finished its exhibition game with Walsh on Nov. 2.
“My heart was beating so fast,” Kroll said. “It was just a surreal feeling. Coming back to doing something you love is just awesome.”
In both the exhibition game and the first two games to start Ohio’s season, Kroll has been the first player off the bench. Despite her position as Ohio’s sixth player, the Bobcats have used her in a similar style that they played Dominique Doseck, the lone graduating starter from last year.
That is no coincidence. Kroll watched Doseck’s game last season to see what she contributed to the Bobcats, and how Kroll could adapt that to her game when she finally got her chance to play.
For the redshirt sophomore, this meant being as versatile as possible, playing in whatever role coach Bob Boldon asks for her that given game, and being an asset on both ends of the ball.
“I try to do all the little things,” Kroll said.
Like Doseck, Kroll is a natural ball-handler but is very comfortable with playing in a off-guard role, too. Given that the majority of the point will be run by either Cece Hooks or Erica Johnson, playing on the wing has been a focus for Boldon.
With a player like Kroll, Boldon says coaching her and getting her back to game speed has not been hard. She plays with intelligence and has energy – those two things have made integrating her into Ohio’s game plan smooth for him.
“She’s a pretty easy kid to coach,” Boldon said. “She has a good understanding of the dynamics of the team and how to fit in. It’s been pretty easy to get her up to speed.”
Getting her back to game speed had to happen quickly for Boldon because she has been an integral part of the Bobcats’ early season game plan. Kroll played over 20 minutes in Ohio’s first two games and had 13 points off the bench in the 81-69 win over American on Sunday.
Last season, depth was one of the few weaknesses of the Bobcats. A player like Kroll, who’s able to come off the bench, gives Ohio flexibility. She can come in and give a starter a rest without a drop-off in quality of play or, if the Bobcat starters are struggling, she can come in and add an instant spark.
Kroll is still growing into her role on the team in the early goings of the season. Once she’s established her role, however, it’ll feature an unnoticed sense of reliability by those not within the program.
The relationship she has built with her teammates during her ineligible season and in the offseason has made her return to the court a smoother transition. They made it easy for her to fit in with the team, both on and off the court. That, in turn, made it easier for her to come in and just play basketball.
“It boosts your confidence to come in and know that your teammates have confidence in you to do your thing,” Kroll said.