A knee injury kept Katie Barker off the court last winter for portions of her redshirt season at Ohio University.
It didn’t keep the Cary-Grove graduate from learning plenty about college basketball.
“The thing I mostly used my redshirt season for was just to sit back and watch,” Barker said. “I wish I could’ve used [last season] to get reps. But it gave me the opportunity to watch the people in front of me to see what they were doing.”
Those lessons have been beneficial this season for the sharpshooting Barker and the NCAA Division I Bobcats.
The redshirt freshman ranks fourth in the Mid-American Conference with a 40.4 3-point shooting percentage and has a team-leading 38 3s.
Thanks to Barker’s hot hand, Ohio (16-5) leads the MAC’s East Division at 7-3.
Barker is averaging 6.1 points and 13.1 minutes of playing time a game.
She has been at her best during the conference season. Barker produced career highs of six 3s and 18 points in victories against Buffalo and Western Michigan last month.
“I expected to come in and be able to hit open shots,” said Barker, who is playing at forward. “My teammates have done a good job of finding me when I’ve been open.”
The benefit of having a big game is two-fold, according to Barker.
“Not only does it boost my confidence, but it’s also boosting my teammates’ confidence in me,” she said.
Senior guard Quiera Lampkins leads Ohio and ranks second in the conference with 19.7 points a game. Barker is one of seven players who average between 5.8 and 9.5 points in a balanced attack.
Barker credited the team’s six seniors, who have helped drastically reverse the program’s win production, for the Bobcats’ success. Four years ago, Ohio was 1-15 in MAC play.
“Our senior leadership really carries us,” she said. “When they came here, they were at the bottom of the conference. They’ve built themselves into a championship team. Their work ethic really helps us.”
The Bobcats, who have a one-game division lead entering Saturday’s 2 p.m. home game against Toledo, have eight games remaining before the MAC tournament.
“I just want to continue to make 3s and get my team to go on runs when we need it most,” Barker said.
PR’s Potts tops in MAC: Northern Illinois junior Ashley Potts was honored Tuesday as the Mid-American Conference Gymnast of the Week.
The Prairie Ridge grad tied for first place in the all-around competition last week in a meet with Kent State and Southeast Missouri, posting a season high-tying score of 39 points. She tied for first on the vault (9.825) and was second on the balance beam (9.875) with a pair of season-best scores.
She also took second place on the uneven parallel bars (9.8) and 11th in the floor exercise (9.5).
The Huskies won the meet with 194.425 points, edging Kent’s 194.375. SEMO tallied 190.5.
Vault king of Iowa City: Nate Richartz, a senior pole vaulter at Notre Dame, won the event at last weekend’s Black & Gold Premier indoor track and field meet at the University of Iowa.
Richartz, a McHenry East grad, won the event by clearing 17 feet, 2¾ inches, which was a foot better than three athletes who had the second-best vault.
Richartz’s winning height is his best this season and ranks 25th nationally. During the 2016 indoor season, Richartz won the Atlantic Coast Conference title and finished eighth at the NCAA indoor championships to earn All-America honors.
Augie’s most improved: Huntley grad Alex Ligeza was named D-III Augustana’s Most Improved Player in men’s soccer this week.
Ligeza, a freshman defender, started 17 of the team’s 18 games during the fall. He was one of 23 freshmen on the Vikings’ roster and was chosen for the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin’s Academic All-Conference list.
Standout St. Cloud student: Soccer midfielder Sarah Benhart (Crystal Lake Central), a junior at D-II St. Cloud (Minnesota) State, was named last week to the 2016 College Women’s Scholar All-North Region third team by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
An English major, Benhart has a 3.9 grade-point average. In the fall, she played in every game for the Huskies and compiled a goal and an assist.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com and follow @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.