From the beginning of her hoops odyssey in her hometown of McPherson, Kansas, to her rise to celebrated Division I recruit, Loecker has known only one way to play the game and that is to try to do exactly what the coaches ask of you, stay focused and give all of the effort you can possibly give from opening tipoff to final buzzer.
Same, of course, goes for practices.
“I don’t really know any other way to play the game or any game,’’ says the personable 6-foot forward. “I guess you could say I’m just really competitive, maybe too much, but I think that I’m this way because I just don’t want to lose … I hate losing.
“It probably also comes from growing up with four brothers and having to work my tail off to compete with them."
After Francis and Jacqueline Loecker’s only daughter developed her natural skills and fiery competitive spirit against Justin, Andrew, Adam and Jacob, she then took it to the next level on the various basketball and volleyball courts throughout the state of Kansas.
She was a second-team Kansas Basketball Coaches Association All-State selection after helping lead the McPherson High School Bullpups to a third-place finish at the Class 4A State Championships as only a sophomore.
Loecker followed that up by being named the Gatorade Kansas Girls Basketball Player of the Year as the junior averaged 16.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.9 steals and 1.3 blocks per game while spearheading McPherson’s drive to the 4A state title.
As a senior she was again the Gatorade Player of the Year in the Jayhawk state with an impressive 17.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.6 blocks per game. Her team again reached the state finals with a 22-4 record and finished as the 4A runner-up.
Her senior campaign also included being named KBCA All-State and the Class 4A Player of the Year in volleyball.
All of that talent and those accolades and statistics, of course, brought many college coaches from around the country to McPherson to offer a scholarship. But after weighing offers from the likes of Kansas State, Kansas, Nebraska and New Mexico, Loecker signed with Littell and Oklahoma State.
“I thought I was going to Kansas State the whole time, but I kept an open mind and I’m glad I did,’’ says Loecker. “The biggest thing about my visit to OSU was the coaches and how I felt such a connection with them.
“The school and this town just really felt right and I found out on my visit that I wanted to be here and it’s just been a perfect fit for me. I feel even stronger about that after my first year. School, my life and basketball so far are really good here, everything seems headed in the right direction."
As a rookie Katelyn was part of a very successful 25-9 campaign for the Cowgirls, a season that saw them tie for third-place in the Big 12 Conference standings, reach the semifinals of the league tournament in Oklahoma City and then close out the year with an impressive run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championships.
“It was an awesome year and a great learning experience,’’ Loecker explained. “I set myself some little goals and I accomplished them."
Last season Loecker saw action in 33 games and even started the season opener and scored five points against Lamar. Overall she averaged 11.2 minutes per game, scored 65 points (2.0 average), pulled down 91 rebounds (2.8) and hit 21 of 32 free throws, while also recording 10 steals and five blocks.
“I’m just getting started and I expect to improve a lot as my career moves along," added Loecker. “Last year was absolutely great, but I think we have a chance to be even better in the future. I think we could win the Big 12 and get back to the Sweet 16 and then see what happens.
“If we all work hard and don’t take too much for granted we have the talent to do something special."
Currently, Loecker is just hoping to get that opportunity to contribute in the upcoming 2014-15 season if a troublesome shoulder will cooperate. Her all-out style of play resulted in some shoulder issues in past years and, while lifting weights in the off-season, there was a dislocation and a torn labrum, followed by surgery.
“They fixed it up and cleaned it up and I’m hoping to get the sling off very soon and then we’ll see when I can get back," she explained. “I know I’m going to miss some of this season, but I’m hoping to be back by December.
“Again, once I get the sling off the doctors will let us know something.
“It’s just so frustrating watching my teammates get ready for the season and all I can do is watch the workouts from the sidelines. I’m still going to be there for them every day and cheer them on. If I can’t make it back by December I’ll play, but if not I’ll just have to redshirt and get completely healthy.
“I’m trying to stay positive about it all and my friends and family are there to pick me up when I do get down about it. But I want to play."
And Oklahoma State wants her to play because everyone knows that the athletic potential of Katelyn Loecker has only been tapped, and, with three years of eligibility remaining, the best is still yet to come.
And when it does, Gatorade Kansas Girls Basketball Player-of-the-Year chances are Jim Littell will smile once again.
NOTE: THIS STORY APPEARS IN THE WINTER 2014 ISSUE OF GOPOKES MAGAZINE