Call it a Big 5 infiltration from the West, well orchestrated.
There are enough Jekots popping up on Big 5 women’s basketball rosters, it’s easy to get confused.
“People from this area still think I’m from here,’’ said Katie Jekot, redshirt sophomore at St. Joseph’s, younger sister of Villanova star Kelly Jekot, and older sister of Julie Jekot, an 11th grader who recently committed to play college ball at La Salle.
Each coming to the Big 5, each choosing her own school.
You can’t blame anybody for assuming the clan is from Philadelphia, or at least Delaware County, since they all played travel-team ball for the Delco-based Comets.
“From Harrisburg,’’ Katie Jekot said. Enola, actually. Cumberland Valley High. “We did travel far for AAU, but we did it so teams in Philly could see us.”
Katie will be the only Jekot actually playing Big 5 basketball this season, since Kelly tore her ACL at the end of last season and will wait until next year to complete a Villanova career that included being named to the all-Big 5 first team in 2018-19.
That’s an unasked-for bond between the sisters. Kelly sometimes calls or texts Katie with questions.
“Is this supposed to, like, burn or crack?’’ Katie said Kelly has asked her. Her answer: “Yeah, stuff like that happens. It’s fine. Don’t get scared.”
Katie made last season’s Atlantic 10 all-rookie team, but it was her second year in school, first on the court. Telling the tale of why she had to wait, she goes back to her first months on Hawk Hill. First preseason scrimmage, Katie started, came out of it on a real high. Then there was the day before the second scrimmage.
“I can remember the day -- Nov. 3, 2017,’’ Jekot said. “We were in the practice gym. … I was over the top of a screen, guarding a shooter. My leg got stuck in between two people. I just fell, screaming. At first, I didn’t think it was my ACL because it was my calf that was in pain, not my knee. I got up, laughing. ‘I’m fine.’ ‘’
She sat out the rest of practice, but it wasn’t until the next day she got the news, torn anterior cruciate ligament. She believed it.
“The next morning, I could barely walk, it was so stiff,’’ Jekot said.
High to low, that quickly.
“The first couple of days, I didn’t talk to anyone,’’ Jekot said. “I stayed in my room. My dad, we’re going to make a plan, it’s OK. It happened. We’re just going to have to deal with it.”
Jekot remembers responding, “I don’t want to deal with it.”
For the first month, she said, she didn’t want to do post-surgery rehab. Friends at St. Joe’s finally “brought me out of where I was.” At least, got her out of the room.
“The injury itself really took a toll when games started,’’ Jekot said. “I wasn’t crying when my team is playing. But I can’t hold these emotions in. Why am I hurt? It was tough to watch.”
Having her older sister close at Villanova was a help.
“Kelly came over a lot,’’ Katie said. “Kelly even came with our parents to watch games, even though they knew I wasn’t playing.”
Sitting out and watching her sister score 27 points against the Hawks wasn’t a lot of fun.
"It was hard because I was like, do I clap when she scores? No, I can’t,'' Katie said. “All I can say, I’m happy she played a good game. It stunk that it was against my team. But I can’t root against her, ever.”
Last season was their only time on the court facing each other.
"Weird,'' Katie said. “I wouldn’t say it was either of our best games. At one point, we were guarding each other. I was like, ‘Just go on someone else, please.’ ”
Although she always considered her older sister her best friend, Katie decided going to a different college would be smart. Her sister had been state player of the year. A year behind, Katie was all-state but decided that doing her own thing would make sense. She was recruited by Villanova. Coach Harry Perretta had been up front, saying, “Do you want to play with your sister? Let me know early.”
She just found a strong fit down the road. Saying of Hawks coach Cindy Griffin, “I could tell she was very structured. She had a plan, wanted to do this, this, and this. I’m just like this -- let’s start here, do this, and this to get where we need to be.”
It all kind of works out.
“I”ll drive to her dorm room, we’ll hang out; or she’ll come here, or we’ll go out and eat on a Thursday night,’’ Katie said.
Technically a rookie last year, Jekot is now part of the Hawks’ leadership structure, even being sent as the team representative to an A-10 leadership seminar.
“We wanted her to experience leadership in a different way,’’ Griffin said, talking of how the program has had strong past leaders, from Natasha Cloud to Erin Shields to most recently Alyssa Monaghan.
“That’s what we see for her,’’ Griffin said. “We’re asking a lot, but that’s what we need for her.”
On the court, Griffin described Jekot, who averaged 7.5 points a game last season, as a defensive catalyst who needs to score a little more this season as an off guard, while she’ll occasionally run the point. Griffin said the year off was good for Jekot just in the sense of watching the game, picking up nuances.
The game is part of her. Even Philadelphia is part of her. Her father, John, grew up in Bensalem, played basketball at Egan and at Lock Haven. Her mother, Jennifer, was a field hockey star at Lock Haven. (None of the girls ever took to field hockey.)
The middle of the state turned out to be best for Dad’s job and they liked the school system so they’ve stayed put. Their parents sat them down early and said they’d drive the two hours east for AAU practices if the girls wanted to commit to it. That often meant getting home at 11 on a school night.
It has worked out, everybody finding a niche, with the youngest sister already showing her stuff on the court. Expect eighth grader Jill to make the same drive east for travel-team practices in Delaware County.
There’s no truth to the rumor that the youngest also has narrowed her choices to Penn and Temple, the only Big 5 schools left without a Jekot commitment.