Countdown to 2015–16: Katherine Coyer is a captain and a leader for Villanova basketball

Photo courtesy of Villanova Athletics.

Her high school coach had a unique, and perfect, way of describing her worth to a team.

Come to our practice for a week. Watch her, and you’ll be looking for a way to get her onto the court.

What set Katherine Coyer apart during these practices? The answer often began with a word. Defense.

Coyer says that this side of the game has always come naturally to her. Her twin sister Caroline, a teammate for many years running, was always the star in the sports they played. “For whatever reason, when we were younger, I didn’t ever make the top team, which Caroline was on,” says Coyer. “But in certain tournaments, I’d get called up to her team because the coaches knew I could play D.”

When Coyer was in the fourth grade, both she and Caroline tried out for their school’s sixth grade team. Caroline made the sixth grade B team; Coyer was sent to a lower league. “It was a huge blow to my ego,” Coyer says. “I realized that this wouldn’t come easily. If I wanted to do something in basketball, I would need to step up my game.”

Coyer began to work fastidiously on her offense. Both her parents played basketball in high school (her dad played quarterback at Minnesota, too), but it was big brother Chris, a future Temple quarterback, whom Coyer credits with having “a huge impact” on her development as a player. When Chris would come back from practices, he’d show Katherine and Caroline what he’d learned.

In four years at Oakton High, Coyer helped preside over a 110–5 record. While Caroline became the blue-chip recruit, coaches in the know knew that Katherine would become an indispensable component to a team. It became evident during the state final, her senior year. As the defense flocked toward Caroline, Coyer calmly dropped 24 points and helped punctuate a perfect 31–0 season.

The twins were determined to play basketball together in college, and they would immediately eliminate programs that weren’t on board with a package deal. Some wanted Caroline, and not Katherine, but longtime Villanova coach Harry Perretta made it a point to recruit both. “I felt Katherine was a really good player,” says Perretta. “Her intelligence just jumped out at you.”

In Perretta’s vaunted motion offense, where canny — and frequent — movement reins, the 5–11 Coyer’s basketball IQ and fundamental acumen (she could make a tremendous coach some day) are unleashed. In ‘14–15, Villanova assisted on two thirds of its baskets.

“Harry’s offense is about reading defenses, and that’s so conducive to how I play basketball,” Coyer says. “I can read defenses really well, so that helps me a lot. When I get open in games, I’m usually wide open.” (To wit: the first mention of Coyer, in Villanova’s final game notes last season, is of her scoring off a back cut.)

“If you can move without the ball in my system, you’ll get easy baskets,” says Perretta. “And Katherine moves without the ball better than anybody on this team.”

Coyer says that she would have picked Villanova even without the bonus of basketball. Perfect size, perfect distance (about two and a half hours) from home. While Chris starred at quarterback at Temple, the twins were just 30 minutes away from attending his games in Philadelphia.

Perretta has talked frequently with Coyer, who’s started 45 games the past two seasons, about increasing her scoring. As Villanova embarked upon a run to the WNIT quarterfinals last season, Coyer responded. There were the 23 points (including 20 in the second half) in the win over Temple in the WNIT quarterfinals, the 16 against against Butler in the Big East tournament quarters.

Photo courtesy of Villanova Athletics.

Coyer started 30 games as a junior for the Wildcats, who finished 22–14. (She missed six games during the non-conference slate with a knee injury.) Her 7.5 points and 2.3 assists ranked third on the team, and she also posted 3.3 rebounds while shooting 50% from the field and 41% from three. In addition to drawing heavy defensive responsibilities, Coyer deputized as Nova’s backup point guard.

In ‘15–16, Perretta wants to see Coyer become even more aggressive offensively. He’ll still use her as a point guard, though the arrival of heralded freshman Adrianna Hahn should ease that burden. “I hope she’ll be freed up to score a bit more and not get so beat during the game, because she doesn’t have to do everything,” Perretta says.

Apart from a team trip to Italy in May, and a week home in Oak Hill, Va., Coyer was on campus this summer. Internship during the day, workouts before and after — the heading-into-senior-year type of grind. “At this point, I know what I’m good at,” Coyer says. “I want to keep my shot consistent, and stay solid in the things I know I can do to help.”

Coyer is a double major, in marketing and real estate. After this season, she’s intrigued by the possibility of following former Nova teammates Emily Leer and Taylor Holeman, who’ve pursued rather unique professional playing opportunities in Ireland and England, respectively.

Instead of receiving a salary from the teams they play for, Leer and Holeman have a master’s program paid for. “Emily’s pursuing a master’s program in business and management at Trinity College, in Dublin, which is a top-five university in the world,” says Coyer. “I want to try and do that too when I graduate Villanova.”

For now, she’ll try to lead the Wildcats to a fifth consecutive postseason appearance — hopefully, an NCAA tournament bookend, following a trip to the Dance as a freshman, in 2013.

“Katherine doesn’t get the accolades,” says Perretta, “and that doesn’t bother her. She just plays. She’s the kid that every team would love to have.”

Follow Alley Whoops on Twitter at @alleywhoops

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