New girls coach praises extraordinary talent on basketball court

When Marlon Wells first signed on as the head girls varsity basketball coach at The Bishop’s School last summer, he knew he was starting out with a solid foundation in senior guard/forward Kathleen Roehrkasse.

What he didn’t realize, though, was just how good she would make him look.

“My job was made a whole lot easier because of having her here,” Wells said, admitting he couldn’t quite find the words to describe Roehrkasse’s impact. “She’s a fantastic player, and she’s great to build a team around.

“I had seen her before and knew that she was the league’s player of the year last season, but I didn’t really understand how good she was until I started coaching her.”

Indeed, Roehrkasse has been a standout for Wells and the Knights, so much so that she has clearly established herself as one of the top players in the Coastal League, if not in all of San Diego County.

Roehrkasse could be described as a statistical marvel, the type of player who defies the odds by showing up prominently in nearly every significant numerical category. She averages a double-double per game, entering the new year leading the Knights with a scoring average of 24.9 points per game and 13.7 rebounds per game. She shoots a team-best 55 percent (88 for 161) from the floor and 76 percent (67 for 88) from the free-throw line.

But Roehrkasse is far from a ball hog or just an offensive player. She dishes out an average of 3.6 assists per game, 7.3 steals per game and 2.7 blocks per game.

Roehrkasse’s play has clearly benefited her team. Along with Michelle Brunker, who entered the last holiday weekend averaging 19.0 points per game, Roehrkasse had helped the Knights to an 11-1 record, as they strung together 11 consecutive wins and victories in 12 of their first 13 games to help Wells open his Bishop’s coaching tenure with significant momentum.

Roehrkasse isn’t just a one-year phenomenon, though. Last season, she averaged 16.3 points per game and 9.5 rebounds per game as the Knights went 25-5, finished runner-up in the CIF-San Diego Section Division IV playoff bracket and advanced to the state tournament.

Even as a sophomore during the 2004-2005 season, she was a contributor and helped Bishop’s win 20 games and advance to the state playoffs.

She said this year has been different, partly because Wells, who replaced respected veteran Coach John Farrell, has changed the Knights‚ offensive approach by opening up their offensive game.

“I like the way we play,” Roehrkasse said. “We play a fast-paced game and get up and down the floor a lot. I think that’s what makes us so good, is that we wear teams down with our running game.”

Not one to lavish attention on herself, Roehrkasse has gone about the business of being her team’s top player and one who gives opposing players nightmares with very little fanfare. She approaches her role as a team leader by simply producing on the basketball court and finds a way to focus her attention on the team, not on her individual exploits.

Given her success, however, she doesn’t exactly blend in.

Roehrkasse has recorded a double-double - 10 points or more and 10 rebounds or more - in each of the Knights’ first 13 games, leading the team in scoring in 11 of those games and leading Bishop’s in rebounding in every contest. She has scored as many as 31 points twice and pulled down as many as 20 rebounds in a single game.

It helps Roehrkasse that, at 5-feet-10, she is stuck squarely in the middle of the guard and forward positions. She has the size to muscle up with the bigger players in the post, but she also maintains the quickness necessary to slash to the basket or spot up on the perimeter for an open look at the hoop.

“She’s a little too big for the guard position and a little too small for the forward position, but she can do it all - go to the basket inside and shoot from the outside,” Wells said. “She creates a lot of mismatches for teams defensively, and she’s an excellent defender herself.”

Roehrkasse will likely play guard at the next level, and Wells said it’s not a stretch for her, especially with her excellent grades and test scores, to play at an Ivy League university or a mid-major college. She has already made a recruiting visit to Columbia, she said.

For now, though, her focus is on her high school team, which shouldn’t bother Coach Wells one bit.

“I’m just really excited about how well we’re doing this year,” Roehrkasse said. “All the girls are really working hard, and I think it shows in our results. Hopefully if we keep doing the things we’ve been doing, we’ll do well this season.”