Caitlin Duffy adjusts to college basketball with a little help from friends

Caitlin Duffy (33) has been starting as a true freshman this year. Duffy had her 14th double digit game last Saturday against New Mexico.
Caitlin Duffy (33) has been starting as a true freshman this year. Duffy had her 14th double digit game last Saturday against New Mexico.

Caitlin Duffy is on her way to a freshman 15. Right now, she is sitting pretty on top of 14 double digit games this season.The 5’ 11” guard hit that marker in last Saturday’s loss to New Mexico, where she hit a career-high four 3-pointers.

At any level, her accomplishments are noteworthy, but her prowess as a true freshman sets her above others. Duffy’s modesty over the milestone was obvious; unsure of when it had happened, she was more excited about traveling to another new place than giving kudos to herself.

“The Pit is a fun place to play, they have a really good crowd,” Duffy said. “It felt good to hit some shots, I had a couple of games before that where I wasn’t shooting well.”

Although Duffy is used to tough competition from her years as a high school star, where she took St. Thomas More High to its first state championship in her senior year, collegiate-level athletics is another ball game.

“It’s a huge commitment,” Duffy said. “Your whole life revolves around this. From what you are doing on offense, defense, with the coaching, the weightlifting — everything is at another level.”

Duffy credits intense familial support and great role models for helping her get to where she is. She dabbled in other sports, like soccer, before realizing her dreams of becoming a Division 1 starter.

“It’s been huge in my family,” Duffy said. “My dad played college basketball and he taught me everything. I also played with my two older brothers growing up.”

Heading into her ninth consecutive start on Saturday, when the Rams take on Boise State, Duffy is mindful of the honor of being a young starter, but also the pressure it brings with it.

“I don’t take it for granted at all, it’s a big deal,” Duffy said. “It can be overwhelming at times, but I have great teammates. When things aren’t going well, they are really supportive.”

The close-knit nature of the team is obvious when they talk about one another, and their positive attitudes have helped them get through a roller-coaster of a season. With a set of coaches as new to the team as she is, Duffy is confident in their improvement as the team wraps up the regular season.

“We all knew it was going to be a growing season,” Duffy said. “In order to keep going you have to have a positive attitude. I think we have all seen the fruits of that, and if we continue to get better, we have a good chance to do something at the conference tournament.”

Duffy and her teammates have just three regular season games left to play, against Boise, Wyoming and Nevada before heading to Vegas.

The Reese’s Mountain West Championships begin March 12, where Duffy will experience her first conference tournament under the Vegas lights. But she isn’t going to let the pressure get to her.

“Mental toughness is huge,” Duffy said. “You have to find an even-keeled place where you can withstand the highs and lows. It makes it all worth it, you can make it though a lot.”