Above image of Taylor Kollmorgen provided by the UMHB Athletics Department
BELTON, Texas- Taylor Kollmorgen came to Belton with the dream of playing in the NCAA Tournament. That, and the chance to play alongside her sister Kaitlyn.
A graduate student this year, she had already earned a degree from Houston Baptist University, a division one school in the Southland Conference, where she also played basketball for the Huskies. The Houston native averaged 4.8 points per game in her senior year at HBU, but never had the opportunity to play for a national title. Of course, by transferring to UMHB, she not only got that opportunity, but also the chance to team up with Kaitlyn, a freshman for the Cru, and grow as a student in UMHB’s well-known occupational therapy program.
“Honestly, it’s been different, it’s been a lot more physically draining,” said Kollmorgen of this past season. “It’s been fun, I love the fact that the team gets along well.”
This past season has been a memorable one for Kollmorgen, though a decision in early February by the NCAA and its division three committee took the possibility of playing in the NCAA Tournament off the table.
“Taylor Kollmorgen came here because she wanted a chance to compete in the NCAA tournament,” said UMHB head coach Mark Morefield. “I do feel bad for Taylor [not having that opportunity].”
The NCAA may have robbed Kollmorgen of her goal to play in the “Big Dance”, but her lone season playing for the Cru has been one filled with moments to remember. The 5’11 post player “has had the time of her life” playing alongside Kaitlyn, stepped into a leadership role on a young UMHB team, and been challenged in the classroom.
“It’s been a good challenge,” said Kollmorgen in response to a question about the tough academic and athletic environment at UMHB. “They definitely challenge us here to be better everyday and the same in the classroom.”
Having seen the season play out from start to finish, there is truth to her statement. When it comes to individual play, the post player may have had her season-high in points (20) in the season opener against UNT Dallas, but she has come to be a force on the boards, leading the Cru in rebounds with 132. Of course, development does not only show up on the court, and as the season has progressed, Kollmorgen’s status as one of the team’s go-to upperclassmen has grown with it.
“It has definitely been weird [coming in as a newcomer but also as the most experienced player on the team],” said Kollmorgen, who will have played in her 102nd collegiate game after Saturday’s regular season finale. “I took a step back when I came here because I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ve been in the game, but this isn’t my team and the culture here is completely different from HBU, definitely more cohesive.’ It’s been fun. I’ve liked stepping back and watching other people lead. Our captains have been doing a great job. And when the time comes, we when we had a team meeting [a couple weeks ago], there were some things that needed to be said and I felt like I had a little bit to give. I’m not a vocal leader, I like leading by example on the court. But when something has to be said, I try to step up and say it.”
That mentality of ‘stepping up when necessary’ has shown itself not only in the way Kollmorgen approaches team meetings but on the court as well. She is not the kind of player that will take a high percentage of the Cru’s shots, but when UMHB needs a bucket, Kollmorgen is often times one of the first players the coaches look to.
Kollmorgen’s performance on the court has paved the way for others to step up as well, including Kaitlyn, who has continued to see an increase in her minutes throughout the season. January 16, 2021 will always be a significant moment for the two sisters, as Morefield put them on the floor for the first time together in a 75-63 victory over Belhaven.
“It was awesome,” said Kollmorgen of playing alongside Kaitlyn against Belhaven. “That is still my favorite moment, and my favorite game by far. That is literally the reason I’m here.”
Unlike guard Brooke Elliott, who has not made an official decision on returning for another season in 2021-22, Kollmorgen has made it clear that this is her final season of college hoops. After five years of playing, one spent as a medical redshirt, her knees are done, and UMHB’s occupational therapy program is the next challenge ahead. She may have taken a unique path to Belton, and spent only one year on the basketball team, but the impact she has had, the way she has taken countless freshmen under her wing, has not gone unnoticed by the coaching staff.
“Our goal for her when she decided to come back for another year was to really have her come in and help Allaira [Jones] grow, and help her sister grow in her position as a freshman,” said Morefield, noting how he and the coaching staff knew of Kollmorgen’s talent on the court but also valued her leadership abilities. “I think she’s great from that point, she kind of gives us a two-headed monster along with Allaira, which gives us two deep post options. But really her leadership and ability [was what stuck out].
“It’s been different for her [this season] because she maybe wasn’t in some of the roles at HBU that she is in here. I think it’s been great for her because now it has put her in a position that she may have not been in before, being that leader to help our freshmen grow, and help our team grow.”