Belle Vernon girls basketball standout Slagus will play at Bucknell
As a sophomore two years ago on the Belle Vernon Area girls' basketball team, Kaitlyn Slagus saw first hand what the recruiting process was like as her older sister, Jessica, was being wooed by several colleges.
Seeing how long the decision-making process could be helped lead Kaitlyn Slagus to verbally commit to Bucknell University and get the procedure over with three months before the Lady Leps open preseason practice.
“I knew what the schools would ask by watching her go through it,” Slagus said of her older sister, who now plays basketball and is on the track and field team at Seton Hill.
“I have been talking to a lot of coaches since the start of my junior year and I didn't want it to go on any longer. My family, coaches, and I all put in a lot of time and visits and it was time to end it.”
BVA coach Lisa Fairman expressed her joy for the 6-2 Slagus, who she has coached since Slagus was entering ninth grade.
“I knew when I first saw her that Kaitlyn had what it took to be a D-1 player,” Fairman said. “She had the size, the athletic ability, the drive and the passion for the sport.
“It has been my pleasure to see her grow into the player that she has become. This could not happen to a better person or a better family.”
Among the other schools that were recruiting Slagus were Lafayette, LaSalle, Rider, Richmond, Niagara and American.
So what ultimately led Slagus, who has a 3.8 GPA, to Bucknell, which has the number one student-athlete graduation rate in the country?
“I really like the coaching staff and really liked the area,” she said of Lewisburg, Pa. “I did not want to go to a big area.”
Last year, Slagus averaged 23 points, 19 rebounds and two blocks per game and recorded a double-double in all 23 of BVA's games.
She has made a personal assault on the school record books, and she is not done yet.
Last year, she scored a school-record 38 points against Greensburg Salem and set a school mark a year before with 26 rebounds in a game against West Mifflin.
Early in the upcoming season, Slagus should become the fifth player in program history to hit 1,000 points. She currently has 859 points, and she is only 280 rebounds from hitting 1,000 boards for her career.
Fairman said Slagus is “a mentally tough and is physically stronger” player than she was as an underclassman, and both remember a conversation they had right after the elder Slagus graduated.
Those familiar with the program knew Jessica Slagus was a team leader and once she graduated, the team needed someone to take over.
“At the start of (Kaitlyn's) junior year, I told her that it was her time now and we needed her to step up and be a leader,” Fairman said. “She stepped up and became a leader on and off the court.
“She went after it and worked hard and has made it happen.”
Slagus vividly remembers the exchange.
“It was a deep conversation and I knew I had to step it up,” she said. “But that talk gave me confidence.”
With her college decision out of the way, Slagus can leave recruiting distractions behind and is already focused on the upcoming season.
“I hope we win the section,” she said of a goal. “And I want us to make it farther in the playoffs than we did the last few seasons.”
Bill Hughes is a freelance writer.