by Duane Cochran for FightingFalcons.com
In March 2010, the day before Fairmont State played for and won the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament Championship at the Charleston Civic Center against West Liberty, then-FSU senior forward Mo Gattuso was talking about freshman point guard Kaitlin Snyder.
“You want to know what the best thing about her is?” asked Gattuso. “She's a freshman and she's only going to get better – trust me.”
Gattuso's assessment of Snyder's talents and abilities on the basketball court was spot on. In the nearly two years since Gattuso made her prediction Snyder has elevated her game to a level that is destined to have her mentioned along side some of the all-time FSU women's basketball greats.
“You want to hear something funny?” asked Snyder. “I've had a lot of people tell me I'm a better soccer player than basketball player. I thought 'Really?' I've always worked a lot harder at basketball. That kinda hurt.
“You know I don't believe that I'm that good. I just work hard and I play hard and I'm smart at it at times. I make mistakes because I'm human and I'm certainly not perfect, but I've always felt if you truly work hard and play hard it will pay off for you eventually and I feel like it somewhat has.”
It has indeed. As a freshman Snyder garnered All-Freshman honors from the WVIAC and was named to the league's All-Tournament Team as she helped FSU earn a berth in the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
Last season she was a first-team all-conference selection and a second-team NCAA Division II All-Atlantic Region pick as a sophomore.
This year Snyder's progression as a player has continued. She currently leads the WVIAC and is third in the nation in scoring with a 22.8 average. She's reached double figures in scoring in 42 of her last 45 games, including a current streak of 35 straight games. Twenty times she's scored 20 or more points in her career and on five occasions has scored 30 or more. Her 1,188 career points currently rank her 15th all-time in FSU history.
But Snyder is much more than just a scorer. She ranks fifth in the WVIAC in field goal percentage (49.1 percent) and first in 3-point field goal percentage (33-of-75, 44.0 percent). She's also fifth in the conference in steals (2.4), eighth in assists (4.1) and tied for third on her team in rebounding with an average of 4.4 per outing.
“Kaitlin is a player who came in here her freshman year and made an immediate contribution for us in a big way,” said junior forward Alana George. “Her role was a little different then because we had great players like Ashley Vavrek and some others around her, and her job was to distribute the ball and be a secondary scorer. I think she learned a lot from Ashley that season because since then she's really stepped up and become a go-to player for us.
“She does a little bit of everything and she's the first player to speak up and tell us what needs done. Kaitlin is very competitive. She wants to win more than anything and she works hard to achieve that. She really spends a lot of time in the gym working on her game. Her outside shot has gotten so much better. She's just a very consistent player that we count on a lot.”
Veteran coach Steve McDonald, the winningest women's basketball coach in the history of the school, agrees.
“Kaitlin is obviously a special talent,” said McDonald. “She's extremely quick. She shoots the ball very well, she's strong and physically gifted. Her development over the last three years has been more mental than physical.
“I think she's one of the best players in the country. I always hesitate to say this player or that player is the best in the league because we have a lot of great players in our league, but Kaitlin is certainly one of the top two or three players in our league right now and like I said one of the top players in the nation. We put the basketball in her hands many times and live with the results and most times the results are good.”
Off the court Snyder works equally hard at school. One of the influencing factors in her decision to attend FSU was her desire to major in nursing. She was accepted into the school's highly competitive nursing program last spring.
“Nursing is hard, but I love it,” said Snyder. “What I put into basketball I usually get out of it. When I shoot X-amount of shots before a game I have that confidence going into the game that I'm probably going to shoot pretty well.
“But with nursing it's different. You could spend seven days studying five to seven hours a day and it might not pay off because you don't know. It's that challenging to me. There's some exams which are easier than other and some which are really difficult and I might not do so well. It's really very stressful to me. By the end of the semester I'm thinking 'Am I going to pass or am I going to fail.' I've never failed at anything.
“People are always telling me 'We should go out or we should do this or that' and I can't because I spend all of my time studying. That's my priority. It's what I want to do and I'm not going to sell myself short.”
Snyder's twin brother, Kyle, is also a nursing major at the University of Charleston, and the pair stay in close contact.
“He's my best friend,” she said with a smile. “Always has been. We literally talk every day. He's a big supporter of me both athletically and academically.
“It's kind of special that we're both in nursing. This past semester, which was my first in the nursing program, I knew would be the true test for me as to whether or not I really liked it and I do. I really enjoy it. It's hard and it's challenging, but like basketball I feel like if you put forth the work and the effort eventually you're going to be rewarded.”