Caitlyn Kroll could write a book!
Actually, she probably should.
After all, not many athletes have seen and experienced everything the 2016 Bridgeport High School graduate has during her college basketball career, which will conclude in March.
“My career has definitely been different from what I expected,” Kroll said. “But, everything happens for a reason.”
While that’s true, those reasons are still no less confusing.
Kroll’s college basketball resume includes on-court success, injuries, a transfer, NIL, a conference championship, the chance to play against top-seeded UConn in the NCAA Tournament and more.
Still, though, Kroll isn’t satisfied or ready to let go of the sport she’s played basically since she was old enough to walk.
“I don’t feel like I’ve played my best basketball yet,” Kroll said. “I just want to go out on my terms.”
That is what brought Kroll back to Ohio University’s team as a 24-year old, making her one of the oldest players on the team by a wide margin.
There was a point — about a calendar year ago — when Kroll believed her playing career was finished. She had just underwent an extensive hip surgery that was going to sideline her for the entire season. However, during the rehab process, around the holiday break, Kroll had “a change of heart.”
“I had dealt with so many injuries that I had sworn up and down I was done,” Kroll recalled. “I simply wanted to have a good-quality of life (as an adult), but after Christmas, I just decided that I didn’t want injuries to define me.”
Part of that mindset stemmed from the end of her prep career with the Bulldogs. She didn’t finish her season because she sustained a torn ACL. That actually led her to miss her entire true freshman season at St. Francis University.
“I went out (of high school) on the terms of the injury,” Kroll said. “I didn’t want my college career to end like that, too.”
With the season opener against Long Island just over a week away, Kroll has mixed emotions.
“I am anxious, but also excited for the season,” Kroll admitted. “I am excited about our team and what it can do, but it’s really not hit me yet that it’s my last season of college basketball.”
Kroll arrived in Athens in 2018 after transferring from St. Francis. She opted to seek a new place to play before current NCAA rules were in place that don’t require sitting out a season following a transfer.
So, counting her knee injury in high school and last season’s hip injury, Kroll has been on the sideline for three seasons. She played in 2019-20 and then COVID hit and the 2020-21 was strange and every collegiate athlete was granted a free season of eligibility.
All told, Kroll has played in 53 games for the Bobcats. She averaged 5.5 points and four rebounds a game.
“I knew my role would change when I transferred to OU,” Kroll said. “They didn’t need me to score, so I had to find a way to be able to help the team. I wasn’t the go-to-scorer like I was in high school or even somewhat at St. Francis. But, I felt like I fit into my role well.”
Kroll was expecting a big season in 2021-22 as college sports returned to normalcy from the pandemic season, but a “massive bone” was discovered in left hip, which led to the aforementioned surgery.
“I had a hip surgery before, but I still had nagging pain, but I was able to play through it,” Kroll said. “I had the surgery on July 14 (2021) and the doctor didn’t know if I would be able to come back and play again, but he was optimistic. I actually chose to come back and play before I had the okay from the doctor.”
With no issues or restrictions, Kroll still undergoes therapy for “maintenance” as precaution, honestly, because she wants to be at her best all season.
Along with Kroll’s desire to not let her career end via injury, she also wants to do everything she can to help the Bobcats, who lost a large portion of their 2021-22 roster.
“I think a lot of people will count us out because we lost the MAC’s leading scorer, but I really believe we have something in store for this season,” Kroll noted. “I am excited to see what this team has to bring come March.”
Kroll expects to be a big part of that as one of the veteran players on the roster.
“I’ll probably do a little bit of everything,” Kroll said. “I feel like when I am healthy I am a vital piece for our puzzle. I am always up for a challenge and I am hopeful that I can show all of the hard work I’ve put in.”
As the second-oldest player on the squad by just a few weeks, Kroll admits that some of her teammates have fun kidding with her about her age.
“They’re always calling me grandma or joking with me about how much time I spend in the training room,” Kroll admitted. “I’ve been in college for seven years, so I’ve experienced a lot on and off the court. I feel like that can be a benefit for some of the younger players.”
Kroll hasn’t wasted time in Athens on Court Street. She’s been quite busy academically.
“Being a student-athlete is one of the hardest things ever,” Kroll admitted.
While that’s hard to argue, Kroll has proven to have the life balance needed to make it work. After all, she’ll receive her fourth degree from Ohio University in the spring. Yes, you read that correctly, she will have four diplomas.
She has an undergraduate degree in sports management and another in marketing. She already owns a Master’s of Science in Management and she’s currently working on a Master’s in accounting, which ironically was her chief undergrad track early in her college career.
“I thought maybe I would get a degree in everything, so when I go out looking for a job, I can show how versatile I am,” Kroll said.
Over the last year so, Kroll has also spent a lot of time building ‘her brand’ if you will, too. With Name, Image and Likeness permissible in NCAA now, Kroll has taken advantage.
“I’ve made a significant amount of money already through NIL,” Kroll admitted. “I have 11,000 followers on Instagram, so I’ve got promotions and deals through that. And that’s something I stress to the younger players and even recruits that come to campus. Take advantage of NIL opportunities. It’s something I wish was around when I was freshman.”
As for what lies ahead after the season, Kroll isn’t exactly sure where she’ll end up, but does plan to move south.
“Whether it’s somewhere like Dallas or even Florida, I don’t know, but I am hopeful to get a job working for a big accounting firm,” Kroll said.
We all might have to wait for that book that Kroll should absolutely write to find out where and how her journey continues.
BRIDGEPORT GRAD Mike Picceti, who is the head football coach at Thomas Worthington High School in suburban Columbus, was named Ohio Capital Conference Coach of the Year. He guided the Cardinals to a 6-4 record and a berth in the Division I playoffs.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE junior baseball player Braylen Blomquist made a verbal commitment last week to continue his career at Wright State University.
KOEN KISH, St. Clairsville grad and former All-Ohio wrestler, won two matches during Clarion University’s wrestle offs to earn a spot in the team’s starting lineup.