Following their loss at Cornell last weekend, coach Mike McLaughlin wanted to challenge the Penn women’s basketball team.
His solution: rather than scrimmage one another, McLaughlin had players from the men’s JV team serve as their opponents.
The exercise felt familiar for freshman point guard Jackie Kates.
“I played against my brother so many times,” Kates said.
Her brother, Mitchell, is a junior guard on the MIT men’s basketball team. He currently averages 12 points for the Engineers, who have opened the season with an 18-1 record.
He taught his little sister everything she knows when it comes to basketball.
“My brother and I are really close,” Kates said. “He helps me out in more ways than you could know.”
In last weekend’s loss, Kates did not shoot well, going 3-for-12 from the field. Immediately following the game, she received a call from her brother, offering reassurance.
“He just told me that it happens to everyone, and to just get back into the gym and work it out,” Kates said.
Hard work runs in Kates’ family. Mitchell and Jackie attend two of the best colleges in the country, and their older brother, Alex, graduated as valedictorian from Cornell.
Kates believes such an attitude toward academics and life comes from her parents.
“My mom believes academics [are] the most important thing in the world, and my dad thinks the same about sports,” Kates said.
Her hard work has paid off, as she was named to Penn’s starting line-up in the last two games.
“Jackie’s been playing well,” McLaughlin said. “But it will take her some time to get acclimated to the change.”
Kates downplayed the importance of earning a starting role.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about who’s starting,” Kates said. “It comes down to, we need to shut the other team’s point guard down.”
McLaughlin believes Kates is far from a finished product and that she needs to give 100 percent every possession. However, he does welcome the authority she brings to the point guard position.
“She’s a natural born leader,” McLaughlin said. “She’s fiery at times, and all we need from her now is for her to be able to bring it for the whole game.”
Her passion for basketball is clear, but she still sees the humor in it.
When asked whether she had ever beaten her brother one-on-one, she quickly replied, “Yes.”
After a moment, her serious demeanor dropped, and she smiled.
“I used to make him play without using his hands on defense.”