Former DI player closes college basketball career with Gators

Katie Batlin, senior, poses for a portrait at SF State on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013. Photo by Philip Houston / Xpress
Katie Batlin, senior, poses for a portrait at SF State on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013. Photo by Philip Houston / Xpress

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When Katie Batlin steps to the free throw line, she puts her hand over her heart in remembrance of her brother, Phil, who was struck by a car and killed in 2004 on St. Patrick’s Day. He was her biggest fan.

“My brother Phil really loved coming to my games and was the loudest person in the stands and he used to tell all of his buddies about me,” Batlin said. “We were very close.”

But her brother wasn’t Batlin’s only supporter; her family is full of die-hard fans and pushed her to keep at the game. She landed a starting spot as a guard for Division I St. Mary’s out of high school, but left in the middle of her sophomore year during 2009-2010 season due to undisclosed reasons. At age 23, in her final year of athletic eligibility, Batlin joined the Gators.

She took her place on the roster last May, when SF State’s CCAA All-Conference player, Farrah Shokoor, left the team suddenly to return home to San Diego.

SF State head coach Joaquin Wallace came to know Batlin through the Amateur Athletic Union basketball program that Wallace was involved with and Batlin played in as a young girl. Wallace kept tabs on her while she was at Miramonte High School in Moraga — where she was nominated to the McDonald’s All-American team and won the Cal-Hi Sports Player of the Year. Wallace actually opposed Batlin in her freshman year at St. Mary’s in an exhibition between the Gaels and Gators. Batlin played 14 minutes and scored 6 points in an 86-75 St. Mary’s victory.

Though St. Mary’s is known for its premier basketball program, she left the basketball program early. She graduated from the university with a degree in kinesiology, but left the Gaels midway through her college career for personal reasons.

“I am really happy Katie has decided to get back on the court. She has a good set of basketball skills that I am sure Coach Wallace and the SFSU Gators are taking full advantage of,” said St. Mary’s head basketball coach, Paul Thomas.

Despite the early departure, Batlin still carries positive memories from her time with the team.

“It was a lot of fun. The expectation (is) that you’re on your game 100 percent of the time, which I personally love that kind of competition,” Batlin said. “That kind of atmosphere created a good dynamic for me to constantly trying to be growing as a player.”

But Batlin wasn’t done with basketball, and the open spot on the SF State team provided her an opportunity to continue her career.

“She wanted to play another year. She didn’t have a great experience at St. Mary’s. I knew her, she knew me. It was kind of like divine intervention,” Wallace said. “That was like the missing link for us because Farrah was all-conference as a sophomore and Katie played the same position. So, it was a perfect match.”

In her first five games with the Gators, Batlin has made a big offensive splash, averaging 16.5 points per game and .449 field goal percentage. She’s also leads the team on defense, with 8.8 rebounds and 3.6 steals.

Batlin is hoping to parlay her one year playing basketball at SF State into playing professional basketball somewhere like Europe. “Professional basketball would be a fun experience, especially in another country and to be able to fully immerse yourself into another culture would be great,” Batlin said.

But, for now, the senior will focus on her final season. Her goal for the season is to improve her accuracy from the three, where she has only hit one out of nine so far.

“I’m pleased with the way the season has started, but by no means am I going to settle for what I’ve accomplished so far,” Batlin said. “I definitely want to continue to get better.”