Salinas, CA, April 05, 2020 - The Alisal High School senior can certainly thank her parents for that trait, but the game of basketball also helped her develop her signature spunk and stamina.
“I have been playing basketball my whole life, and fell in love with it,” said Katarina, whose friends call her Kata for short.
When Gil Basketball Academy began 11 years ago, Kata couldn’t wait to sign up.
“It was so exciting because it was a big group of kids, and we did drills, we scrimmaged, it was great,” she said. A coach told her about GBA’s select travel teams and she joined — “no questions asked.”
“My dad took me to the next practice, and to my surprise it was all boys, no girls in sight,” she said. “At first I was a little overwhelmed and nervous, but once we got into practice all the nerves sorta just went away.”
Kata competed against boys for two years, “and today those boys on my team are some of my closest friends,” she said. “I was like one of the guys with them. I feel like it pushed me to feel more comfortable on the court, and just play the way I knew how.”
The 5-foot, 3-inch shooting guard played all four years at Alisal. Her senior season the girls team won the league championship and advanced to the Central Coast Section playoffs. She was awarded the most improved player on the team.
Born and raised in Salinas, Kata grew up in a family of six. All three of her siblings were girls.
A scholar athlete, the top student plans to choose among the UC San Diego, University of California, Davis, or University of California, Santa Barbara. Her goal is to obtain a degree in biology, and ultimately become a pediatrician.
“Education is a big thing for me,” she said. “I have big future plans for myself, which is why I push myself to work hard in school.”
Through GBA, Kata was able to travel (she played basketball and experienced different cultures in Mexico, Italy, Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica). She also toured college campuses through GBA’s visitation program.
“Not only did GBA help to develop me as a player and create a deeper love for basketball, but they helped to create the work ethic for school I have today, and I thank them for that.”
Kata has also volunteered to coach young GBA players.
“It feels so good because you are someone they look up to and you get to see them develop as a player first hand,” she said. “It’s amazing.”
Coaching also gives her an opportunity to help kids find in themselves the work ethic and ability to overcome obstacles that Kata found in herself.
The future pediatrician simply never took “no” for an answer.
Kata vividly remembers a doctor’s appointment she had as a child. Her pediatrician walked into the exam room to give her a clean bill of health. Looking at Kata’s height on a chart, the doctor told the young girl that basketball certainly wasn’t in her future.
“That broke my heart for some reason,” she said. “After we left I cried. I have had many encounters where someone told me I was too short. But really that was just talk because I showed height didn’t really matter. I learned to block out the negativity and just play my game, the one I enjoy doing and pushed to better myself.”
Marci Bracco Cain
Salinas, CA 93901