BY JEREMY HOECK
It’s been 20 months since Caitlin Duffy played in a college basketball game.
That’s the life of a Division I transfer. There’s the excitement of landing at a new school – in her case, the University of South Dakota – but then the realization sets in that you have sit out an entire season.
That was the situation Duffy, a Rapid City native, faced after she left Colorado State. Her last game with the Rams was in March 2014, and when she takes the court for USD in tonight’s (Friday) season opener at Utah, it will have been 20 months.
She’s more than ready, she said this week.
“I wasn’t just totally sitting out, so that was good, but I still haven’t been in a real game in a year,” said Duffy, a 5-foot-11 junior guard. “So there’s a lot of pent-up energy.
“Hopefully I can channel that the best way I can.”
Channeling became a big part of Duffy’s 2013-14 season at USD.
Sure, she could practice with the Coyotes – who would go on to reach the WNIT – and by all accounts she was a force in those practices, but there was no other outlet. If she had been injured and couldn’t play at all, that would have been one thing, but being able to play but in a sense not play? That became frustrating.
A message from head coach Amy Williams played a key role for Duffy, she said. The message was essentially, look at practices as your games.
“I could put my competitive juices into that, because I didn’t have an outlet for it,” Duffy said. “I took it as a growth experience mentally.”
Duffy wasn’t the only transfer in that position, though. Abigail Fogg, a 6-foot-4 transfer from American University, was also only able to practice last season for the Coyotes. And she too is eligible this season.
“It was frustrating for them and for me, it always is,” Williams said. “But to continue to focus on the fact that this is a great opportunity to improve as players and learn our system, it was good for both of them in the long run.”
Duffy, in particular, brings to the Coyote roster a rather extensive successful Division I history.
She spent two seasons at Colorado State and averaged 9.4 points and 4.1 rebounds as a sophomore, earning Mountain West Conference Sixth Player of the Year honors.
Going to a new school when you barely saw the floor is one thing, but it’s a little different when you’ve established yourself at the D-I level and suddenly have to bide your time.
Yet, as Duffy would tell you, the redshirt season may have actually been a blessing in disguise.
“Now, looking back, if I hadn’t gotten that year away, the transition would’ve been more difficult,” she said. “It gave me time to get to know a new system, new people, a new school; everything.”
But yes, it was hard to sit there and watch her teammates take the floor on game day.
“It doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult, especially when games started,” Duffy said. “There was always a light at the end of the tunnel.”
It also helped that she was surrounded by what she calls a family atmosphere in Vermillion and with the USD women’s basketball program.
“Of anyone I’ve met, coach Williams and this staff does a phenomenal job of ensuring that everybody feels like their role is important,” Duffy said. “Whatever that is, I’m ready.”