No quit in Kitts or Tartans

Senior helps Stuart hoops win two straight games

By: Justin Feil
   Kathryn Kitts can see her basketball career coming to an end. That final day won’t come for more than a month, but the Stuart Country Day senior isn’t looking forward to calling it quits. Quite the contrary.
   "I don’t want it to ever end," Kitts said. "I love it so much. It’s fun to be on a team and represent a school."
   For four years Kitts has been a solid representative for the Tartans’ basketball and tennis teams. But before she takes her serves and volleys to San Diego State on a tennis scholarship, she has one final season of basketball in her.
   "I need that team sport atmosphere," she said. "It’s my last season for it."
   Kitts has always been a leader for the Tartans, regardless of the court she occupies. In tennis, she went 14-2 this fall and was Mercer County Tournament runner-up at first singles. Her final scholastic tennis season ended in perfect fashion with a first-singles and Prep B state championship.
   She’s been the Tartans’ leading scorer for the last three seasons and isn’t letting up as a senior. She poured in a career-high 27 points in a 62-49 win over Gill-St. Bernard’s that snapped a five-game losing streak Monday, then turned around for a 25-point showing in a 55-42 win over George School on Tuesday. And she looks to keep it going against Princeton Day School today.
   "I got good looks from teammates," Kitts said. "Everyone has been scoring lately."
   Caitlin Spratt also topped her career high with 19 points against Gill. Kelly Bruvik picked up some of the scoring load with 17 points against George.
   "We’re building on something," said Stuart head coach Tony Bowman after his team improved to 3-5. "The biggest thing for me is, the kids stop playing when you lose four or five straight. The confidence goes right out the window. They didn’t do that. They kept putting out the effort. They worked hard. That’s important. Now we have two wins. We can start finding out what to do well. We can start running plays better. Things are starting to work out better for us. The kids are starting to come around and talk to each other. That’s going to help us out.
   "It means nothing, having four or five losses. Only two were conference games. Don’t get me wrong, I want to win them all. But we want to win the conference. We start the conference now. I think we should do well."
   The Tartans were still shaking off the rust of its annual winter layoff over the holidays when Rutgers Prep took it to them. The effects of practices over the break that weren’t attended by the entire team showed.
   "We didn’t have a lot of people come to practice then," Kitts said. "After the break, it was a little hard to get it back. We didn’t have a full team any day at practice. It was a wake-up call when we came back and had to play Rutgers Prep. But we’ve got stuff flowing. We’ve got it going."
   Kitts never let it stop. She was at every practice over the winter break, something she attributed to being a captain. She went to basketball practices between keeping her tennis game in shape. Tennis, even in basketball season, can’t be totally forgotten.
   "I get to it on the weekends and days off from school when we don’t have (basketball) practice," said Kitts, who added weightlifting to her repertoire of tennis preparation.
   It’s just as much a product of her enjoyment of the sport and trying to drain every last drop of satisfaction from her experiences.
   "I just want the best season we can have," Kitts said. "That’s more than just (earning) wins. I want the team to come together and click. I don’t think it’s clicked yet. I want to make sure that the team will keep developing after I leave. I don’t want to leave them without making sure they can do well.
   "I personally am trying to be a leader. Coach Bowman is helping. For me, I try to be very encouraging. Sometimes I get stuck in the moment and don’t do that. But I try to help everyone, everyone from the starters to the people with basic skills."
   Maybe nothing helps the Tartans more than winning. It’s a great fix for Stuart, which was seeking the solution after five straight setbacks. It got it with back-to-back wins.
   "It’s a confidence booster," Kitts said. "We can run our offense and we ‘do’ have an offense. We weren’t sure of it after Rutgers (Prep).
   "Everyone knows they can score. They’re not afraid of anymore. The winning is great. We’re looking for another one on Friday against PDS."
   There’s plenty to build on after the Tartans played at full strength in their last two games. Stuart is finding its way, just in time for a big year from Kitts.
   "We’re trying different things with different people," Bowman said. "We put Caitlin at point recently. We started off with Kelly at point, but her scoring was way down. It’s changed a lot. The other thing that’s huge, we played four or five games, then took two weeks off and no one touches a ball. You could tell. That break hurts us a lot.
   "Every season after the break, we work on all our deficiencies. It’s worked out better for us. We’re making people more accountable. When we play teams as talented as we are, they’re competitive. Blair and Hill are more talented at this time and more competitive. Without the time of practicing in, we can’t compete if you have more talented players on the other side. The way to compete is be more organized and playing together. I feel a lot better about it."
   So too does Kitts. It’s perfect timing as the Stuart senior looks to finish up her final season of basketball on a high note.