Written by Vinny Messana, firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 17 January 2014 00:00
In this Sportscenter Era in which every athlete wants to become the next LeBron James or Kobe Bryant, it is refreshing to hear a player attempt to carve her own path. The leading scorer on No. 13-ranked Adelphi Panthers basketball is content being the best Jessica Kitrys she can be.
“I never really had a favorite athlete growing up,” said the senior from Parlin, NJ. “I just have a favorite team,” she added. That team-first mentality has enabled her to lead the Adelphi Panthers to a 12-1 start to the season which garnered national recognition in the latest coaches poll. They peaked at No. 13 with only one team in the NE-10 ranked higher, and that is Bentley University which also began 12-0.
“Bentley is a strong program with a coach that has over 800 wins,” said Adelphi Head Coach Heather Jacobs. This is the reason that voters have given them the edge over Adelphi, which is more of an up-and-coming program. Barbara Stevens has been the head coach of Bentley since 1986, and she has compiled the most victories in the history of women’s Division II basketball.
Adelphi and Bentley both won their first 12 games of the season. It was beginning to become a point of interest who would blink first. The Panthers finally lost in their 13th game, a 12-point defeat to Stonehill College. Jacobs insists the team was not focusing on the undefeated record, rather simply playing fundamental basketball .
Kitrys led the team in scoring in 2012-’13 with an impressive 17.2 points per game. She has improved that mark to 19.5 to this point. While many players can accumulate high scoring averages by virtue of shot volume, Kitrys has shot an incredible 62.3 percent from the field. That is efficiency hardly seen even at the highest level. It is a big reason that the Panthers were leading the nation in shooting percentage through 12 games at 50.1 percent and second in scoring margin at 27.1 points per game.
Surprisingly the senior claims she was not highly sought after when she was choosing colleges.
“Not really,” she said in regards to whether there were several other scholarship offers on the table. “I visited Adelphi, and I was impressed by the atmosphere and the campus.” Of course it didn’t hurt that the school featured a strong Division-II basketball program.
Basketball wasn’t always the first passion of Kitrys. “I used to love dancing as a kid,” she claims. “People told me I was tall and that I should play basketball.” She made the switch to basketball in fifth grade, but also continued playing tennis in high school. Kitrys will be looking to lead the Panthers to an improvement on last year’s second round exit in the NE-10 conference playoffs.
“The goal is to, obviously, win the conference and then move on to the NCAA tournament,” she said. There will certainly be stiff competition with Bentley University. The teams will square up in a regular season matchup this week which will provide an early litmus test for each unit.
From a personal standpoint, Kitrys will definitely be compiling a number of accolades. While last season was nothing to scoff at while she earned NE-10 Commissioner’s honor roll, All-Met Division-II First Team and Northeast-10 Second Team All-Conference, this season has the making of something special.
“Jessica can score in multiple ways,” said her fourth year head coach. “I’ve seen a lot of improvement from here during her career. She’s very good at taking something new and implementing it into her game,” she added.
She has also been lauded for his selfless behavior, which is not to be overlooked at the collegiate level. “She is a great teammate and a great person,” said Jacobs.
Kitrys hopes to continue her basketball career upon graduation as well. Although it is not a guarantee, she will pursue it.
“There’s a decent chance I could play overseas,” she said. Many players have begun their pro career in the European leagues and performed well enough to warrant a chance in the WNBA. In the event that it does not occur, she has a backup plan.
When she is not performing on the court, Kitrys is focusing on obtaining her degree in exercise science in hopes of becoming a physical therapist.
In the meantime, Kitrys is in the midst of a tremendous season for the brown and gold. Keep an eye out for her as she leads the Panthers towards their ultimate goal of a national championship.