Editor’s Note: Above image of Taylor Kollmorgen (left) taken by AMZImages, Above image of Kaitlyn Kollmorgen (right) taken by Centex Photo and David Morris.
For Taylor and Kaitlyn Kollmorgen, the dream of stepping onto the court together and playing side by side for the same team always seemed far off. After all, it is a rare occurrence for two sisters, especially sisters who are four years apart, to play on the same team at any level of basketball, especially in college.
But that is what is taking place this season at UMHB, as the Kollmorgen sisters are teaming up, each ready to make an impact in their own right for head coach Mark Morefield’s deep and talented squad.
With the 2020-21 season just two games old, Taylor has already added an American Southwest Conference (ASC) West Division Player of the Week Award to her list of accolades, scoring a team-high 20 points in the season opener at UNT Dallas. Kaitlyn also saw time in each of UMHB’s victories last week, knocking down the first shot of her collegiate career in Dallas.
The path taken to Belton was unique for each of them, with opportunities to come to UMHB arriving at different times, and under different circumstances. But it was their mother, Brenna, that introduced the two Houston natives to the school, the program, and the winning tradition; a tradition that each would soon become a part of, both on and off the court.
Taylo was an all-state selection coming out of Second Baptist High School in Houston, and caught the eye of several division one programs. She got a chance to live out the dream of many young basketball players, competing at the highest level of college hoops at Houston Baptist, a small division one program in the Southland Conference.
A preseason trip her freshman year to Australia tops the list of great memories made at HBU, as it was an experience that still is fresh in her memory as she speaks about it four years later.
“That was an unbelievably cool two weeks,” said Taylor when talking about the trip “Down Under”. “It was fun traveling. We got to play this one team, we got demolished, but three of their players had played on Australia’s Olympic Team. That was a really cool experience.”
While there, she experienced her share of ups and downs, appearing in every game for the Huskies as a true freshman before missing the entire 2017-18 season with injury and taking a medical redshirt. Her final season at HBU last year saw Kollmorgen average 4.8 points per game, and 3.7 rebounds per contest, respectable statistics that played a role in the team winning two of its final three games of the season, including a senior day victory over Incarnate Word.
With a year of eligibility left and a degree from HBU in her hands, the elder Kollmorgen was looking for an opportunity to conclude her collegiate career, in a place with a new opportunity, a chance to further her knowledge academically, and of course, a winning basketball tradition. The chance to play alongside her younger sister would just be icing on top.
In that same year, Kaitlyn was being pursued by UMHB, as she stood out for Second Baptist, earning three All-State honors, and leading the Eagles to a successful playoff run her senior year, as the team fell in the TAPPS 5A Championship game to Kollmorgen’s eventual UMHB teammates, Arieona and Ariele Rosborough at Southwest Christian School (Fort Worth, Texas). She committed to join the Cru in October of 2019, continuing a long line of talented post players to join Morefield’s successful program.
“It kind of worked out this way,” recalls Taylor on how the two both made the decision to continue their careers with the Cru. “So UMHB recruited Kaitlyn pretty hard her summer of junior year and they have an occupational therapy program here so when I got weightlifted from the 3 schools I applied to, I knew I needed a backup plan in case I didn’t get off. My mom was like ‘What about UMHB? They have a new program, a winning team, you could go play with them, you could go play with Kaitlyn’. I was like ‘Oh, that’d be fun!”. I applied, I got in, called Coach Morefield and he sounded ecstatic, so, that’s how it happened.”
“Before my junior year, I came to a basketball camp at UMHB,” added Kaitlyn as she recalled her recruitment to UMHB. “I had never heard of UMHB until my mom was like, ‘You should go to their camp, they have a really good program’. I said, ‘Ok, let’s do it’. I was shocked. I loved the camp, we did a lot of scrimmaging and honestly, I’m not going to lie, for it being a D3 I thought ‘Wow, they’re really good’. I always loved the atmosphere when I toured here and Coach Morefield was so welcoming. He also told me a little bit about the nursing program because I’m a nursing major and that was a big reason why I came here.”
Making this season even more memorable is the fact it is the first time the two have teamed up on the court in organized basketball. Both tried to make it happen in middle school and high school, but the four-grade separation prevented the opportunity. That is not to say there were not several one on one battles growing up, though. In fact, it was those weekend duels in the driveway growing up that molded both into the players they are today, exhibiting an aggressiveness and competitiveness that Morefield wants to see out of every player on his squad.
“We were both so competitive and we both want the ball so much, we both challenged each other, that’s for sure,” said Kaitlyn.” Whenever we would go up against each other in the driveway and then Taylor would play a game and I would play a game, you could definitely see a difference on the court.”
Through all those hours of hard-fought competition in the driveway, that “difference” stemmed from the fact that both taught each other something different, helping the other to improve in her game and add to her skill set.
“I learned so much from her,” said Kaitlyn of having Taylor as a mentor throughout high school and now, college. “I obviously look up to her as a sister, but also as a basketball player. She is one of the hardest working people that I know. When she is on the court, she hustles so much. I decided, ‘Ok, I’m going to play like Taylor’. She taught me mostly everything I know.”
Though she is four years older, Taylor had the same mentality growing up, always open to learning from Kaitlyn.
“I know that since I’m older, it is supposed to be like, ‘Hey Kaitlyn, what did you learn from Taylor’, but in full honesty I learned just as much from Kaitlyn as she has from me. Growing up, I wasn’t always aggressive. In fact, after one of my seventh-grade games, my parents were like, ‘Why don’t you play like Kaitlyn?’ I was shocked, because normally they tell the younger sibling to play like the older sibling, but in this case, it was reversed. After that, I watched her, and thought, ‘Ok, they’re right.’ I think we both developed our playing styles watching each other.”
And it is those playing styles that have helped the two sisters play a big role in the paint on both ends of the floor for the Cru so far this season, especially when you consider one of the best post players on last year’s team, Kendall Rollins, graduated following the 2019-20 season.
Adjusting to Morefield’s offense has been quite a transition, especially for Taylor who hardly ever left the post while at HBU. In fact, when running scrimmages in practice, there have been times in which both play on the same team, meaning Kaitlyn might be the five (low post) and Taylor the four (high post). In fact, it will not be a surprise if you catch a glimpse of both on the floor at the same time in multiple games this season.
“I really hope so, I think so,” said Taylor when asked if fans will see them on the floor at the same time this season. “We’ve been on the same team in practice a few times when they’ve split us up, and on the court a handful of times in practice. Probably not every game, but I’d think we’ll get a few moments together, which would be really cool.
“One of my goals is to get an assist, feeding the ball to Kaitlyn,” Taylor added.
With Taylor having come from playing at a division one, and Kaitlyn playing against several future division one players throughout high school, both have enjoyed, and been pleasantly surprised, by the caliber of play and atmosphere surrounding the program.
“It is very high-level, very competitive,” said Kaitlyn. “I was not expecting anything like this when I came to my first practice here. Everyone on this team is so competitive, it’s amazing.”
That competitive mindset is evident whether UMHB is playing a little-known opponent in front of a crowd of 200, or in an NCAA Tournament game in front of 2,000. It is also what both sisters are confident will drive the Cru straight into the NCAA Tournament, and give them a chance to accomplish a lifelong goal.
“I’ve wanted to win a ring since middle school,” said Taylor. “Being a part of this team, and then winning one with Kaitlyn, that would honestly be a dream come true.”