It was about a week before the Nov. 11 signing day, Katie Borowicz estimates, that she received a video call from Gophers women’s basketball coach Lindsay Whalen that would change the trajectory of her college career.
Borowicz had already committed to Minnesota, and she was planning on joining the Gophers for the 2021-22 season after her senior year at Roseau High School.
Whalen had a different idea.
With the recent news of the NCAA Division I Council granting winter sport student-athletes an extra season of competition, Borowicz could come down early to start her college career without forgoing a year of eligibility. It would give Borowicz extra time to get acclimated to the college game and the Gophers an extra ballhandler. So, Whalen made her pitch to Borowicz: What do you think of coming down to the U early?
Had she stayed in high school, the U freshman guard would be preparing to lead the Roseau Rams into their season opener on Friday against Hawley High School. Instead, Borowicz took a different path, taking Whalen up on her offer. She played in her first college game Sunday against Penn State, and her second should come at 5 p.m. Thursday when the Gophers play host to No. 9 Maryland at Williams Arena.
Borowicz’s decision wasn’t easy — it meant forgoing a senior high school season with her best friends and missing out on creating memories that could last a lifetime — but after talking it over with her family, coaches and teammates, and combining that with the uncertainty brought upon by COVID-19, Borowicz, a four-star recruit ranked No. 98 overall in the nation in her class by ESPN, took the plunge.
Once she made the decision, things got even harder.
For five weeks, she had to take 10 different classes to complete the work she needed to get her high school diploma. That meant waking up at 8 a.m. and doing schoolwork until 8 p.m.
If she wasn’t on a Zoom call for class, she was doing homework.
“That was a rough, rough couple of weeks,” she said. “A lot of time at the table doing homework, but it paid off. I’m here, having fun.”
Borowicz joined the Gophers right after the holidays and her new coaches eased her into action, starting her off with some individual work and then some small group work before eventually throwing her right into the fire.
In her first college game, because of both injury and foul trouble, Borowicz fought off her nerves and saw 15 minutes of action, scoring two points against Penn State.
“The kid went out there and I think took an NBA three her first possession. Shows a lot of moxie. That’s what you want,” Whalen said. “ … Boy, what’s not to love about somebody coming in and doing that? I know I wasn’t that fearless at that point in my life. I’m just so proud of that kid. Every day I come in here, I’m excited to see what she’s going to bring, what she’s going to do that day, because she’s a special kid.”
Whalen praised Borowicz’s ability to see the court and her tenacity, along with her shooting skills and maturity. Seeing her two older sisters — Kiley and Kacie — play college basketball also played to her benefit, Whalen said.
And so the hope — and expectation — is that the sacrifices made to enroll early will pay off down the road, both for Borowicz and the Gophers.
She thinks they already are.
“(The coaches) didn’t tell me I was going to get playing time. They were just like, ‘You come here and we’ll see what happens,’ ” Borowicz said. “So obviously the practices and how much better in shape I am, I’m ready for that, and already having Big Ten game experience or even just sitting at the games, that’s all worth it.”