LaPrairie finds comfort at GVSU
GVL / Jessica Hollenbeck
Sophomore Kat LaPrairie shoots the ball from the free throw line during a game earlier this season.
When Kat LaPrairie walked into Grand Valley State University women’s basketball head coach Janel Burgess’ office in May of 2012 seeking an opportunity to get back into the game she loved, she suddenly changed the dynamics of an already strong roster.
“Kat is a special kid in the sense of that she walked away from the game years ago, and she had the courage to walk into my office and say ‘Hey, will you just give me a chance,’” Burgess said. “That takes a great deal of character for anyone to do.”
Serving as their prominent sixth man, LaPrairie provides an instant spark off the bench along with her stellar three-point shooting (25-of-58, 43 percent).
“She’s probably shooting the best from three right now, which is huge for us because we love to shoot the three,” said senior Kellie Watson. “Her hitting those shots down the stretch of the game is big for us.”
Following her freshman year at Lake Superior State University, LaPrairie stepped away from the game for four years in what she described as a time to figure out her life plan, and to see if college was right for her.
“It was a great time to step back and evaluate my life,” LaPrairie said. “I took some time off, worked, it was a great experience for me.”
LaPrairie also had somewhat of a nomadic high school career as she played for three different high school programs (Big Rapids, Kalamazoo Louix Noirx and Rockford). After transferring from Lake Superior State University, LaPrairie has finally found the feel of a home in Allendale.
“I love Grand Valley,” LaPrairie said. “I love the chemistry on the team. I really couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.”
Not many athletes have the experience of leaving one college program for another. For the Lakers, fellow teammate Kellie Watson knows some of the struggles that LaPrairie faced, as she was once in her shoes when she transferred to GVSU from the University of Notre Dame following her freshman year.
“We both took a little bit of time off of school to get in a better place,” Watson said. “She wasn’t a big fan of basketball at the time. The biggest struggle with it is getting yourself happy, getting yourself where you need to be, finding out what you need to make yourself happy, and putting yourself in the best situation that you can.”
Unless you knew her story, you couldn’t tell she was away from the game for such a long period of time. LaPrairie has a smooth approach to the game as she carries herself with maturity — something her fellow teammates and coaching staff have taken notice of. Even though LaPrairie is 23 years old, she still has two years of eligibility left following this season.
“Since she has been here, it’s been awesome,” Burgess said. “She’s been mature and appreciative of the game because she didn’t play for 4 years. She has shown great leadership when you look at her coming in as the sixth man off the bench.”