ALLIANCE When Caitlin Tytler traded in purple and gold for purple and white, she knew she needed to bring one specific part of her game with her to her new school.
The former Jackson standout is two seasons removed from her high school career, but she’s carved out a role for herself on the Mount Union roster that looks an awful lot like the one she filled for the Polar Bears under her former head coach, Anthony Butch.
"I feel like scoring down low on the block is one area where I can contribute because we were missing some of that and we had our starting five (center) quit last year," Tytler said. "I was hurt all of freshman year, so I didn’t know what I would be coming into my sophomore year, but we definitely needed rebounding because we’re a smaller team."
At Jackson, Tytler became a double-double machine, pulling down rebounds and providing an interior presence. When she played in the Stark-Summit All-Star game following the end of her Jackson career, Mount Union women’s basketball coach Suzy Venet was in attendance and was talking to someone else at the game about Tytler, noting that she seemed to get her hands on every rebound.
Then, Tytler recalled, just as those words were coming out of Bennett’s mouth, Tytler grabbed another rebound and proved the coach’s point.
Still, having to sit out her freshman season injured made for a frustrating first year of college athletics. Playing gave way to rehabbing, watching and trying to learn the college game better so she could make an impact when she was able to play.
"Especially coming from a Division I school in the Federal League and going to a Division III college, I felt like I had a really big advantage," Tytler said. "Other girls who didn’t get to play at a school like Jackson or in the Federal League, I feel like it was a tougher transition for them."
Tytler noted that school and academic work has always come fairly naturally to her and basketball has been a sport she’s played and enjoyed most of her life, but combining the two at the college level is what made the transition from high school challenging.
"Honestly, school’s always come easier to me, but it was probably balancing the two … time management because both of them enough added together was what was tough," Tytler said.
Her time at Jackson served as good training for college basketball and fittingly, she’s still connected to the program in more ways than one. She plays with one former teammate, Mount Union guard Anna Alkire, and the duo spend time with the current members of the Jackson program in both on- and off-court settings.
"Especially coach Butch, Taylor Mikesell, Chloe (Falconer), and last year coach Butch came to a couple of my games," Tytler said. "He always asks me and Anna’s opinions and we go to their practices during breaks. He has me work with the posts, so I run the posts while he works with the guards."
Tytler, who is a bio-chemistry major, admitted that the thought of coaching has crossed her mind, but with the demands of her chosen career, being a full-time coach might not be possible. Still, down the road, she’d like to have the chance to do some coaching and be able to have an impact on young athletes’ lives the way she says Butch has impacted hers.
With averages of 6.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in her first season on the court at the college level, Tytler has brought the rebounding and interior presence for which she became known at Jackson and has begun to put it in play in college.
The lesson, as always, is that rebounding and toughness travel well, even if it’s just a short trip from Jackson Township to Alliance.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB