Jan. 2, 2002
Junior Katelyn Vujas exudes a quiet confidence that is perhaps just what this year's Florida State women's basketball team needs. On the court, she's not flashy, but she's effective, and she's not afraid to speak her mind on and off the court.
"A lot of times, it's hard when you have to be a leader and the right thing to do, isn't always the "cool" thing to do," Vujas said. "As an upperclassman, sometimes you have to be the one to not do the cool thing and you take a lot of heat with that. That's probably one of the biggest parts that I didn't realize went into stepping up and taking on a leadership role."
Being a leader didn't necessarily come easy for her, but she's had solid role models throughout her life, which have helped mold her into the person and player she is today.
"When I was younger, I thought my parents were the strictest parents, because my curfew in high school was like 11:30 and all my friends got to stay out later than me," Vujas said. "Now I look at it and it was good for me as far as my self-discipline. The older I get, the more I can see why my parents tried to discipline me the way they did."
She also attributes much of what she's learned to players who have donned the garnet and gold before her. When Katelyn was a freshman, it was players like Latavia Coleman and Brooke Wyckoff who she looked up to and patterned herself after. She listened to what they said, she watched what they did and she admired them. She still does.
"I admire Brooke as a player and as a person," Vujas said. "She's just wonderful all-around. Because I'm a post player, Tay (Coleman), just being that strong force inside, was also someone I looked up to when I was a freshman. It was neat to be able to learn things from them. Now as a junior, I see that I'm doing what they did. When I was a freshman, when I saw things that they did, I thought they were so amazing and I didn't know if I would ever get to that point. But seeing what Tay, Brooke, and even Levys last year have been through really helped a lot.
"Being a leader is not as easy as you think. When you're an underclassman, you think, 'I can do that,' but now as an upperclassman, I think, 'Wow, those are strong people.' Leaders aren't born. Obviously, there are people who are natural leaders, but everybody has to work to be able to handle everything that comes with it."
Although Vujas grew up in Ohio, she knew all about Florida State ... football that is. "My grandparents have always lived in Florida and my brothers always took a Florida or Florida State side, so that was always in the back of my mind," she said. "Obviously, I took my brother Ben's side - he's a Florida State fan. My brother John is a Gator fan."
Once Katelyn began being recruited, she learned all about FSU women's basketball. She also played AAU ball with a friend of Brooke Wyckoff's, who encouraged her to go to FSU because she knew how much Brooke liked it.
"When FSU started recruiting me, Coach Tag and I would talk a lot and I just really felt comfortable with them wanting to know me as a person as opposed to just an athlete," Vujas said. "I wanted that family atmosphere. I wanted to be somewhere where I was wanted for who I was, not just because I was a basketball player."
Vujas made an immediate impact at FSU. As a freshman, she started seven games and played the most minutes of any newcomer. As a sophomore, she worked herself into a full-time starter. It was full speed ahead for Katelyn who had played in every game her first two seasons and had career averages of 9.2 points and 5.1 rebounds. Heading into this season, however, Vujas suffered a foot injury and was sidelined for the first four games.
"It hasn't been as easy as I thought it would be, coming off the injury," Vujas said, "but, I'm starting to get back into my groove and stepping in and playing some decent ball. I just want to be a force inside. I want to be the leading rebounder and strong underneath. Going into the ACC season, we're going to need a dominant force inside and hopefully I can be that."
Vujas has worked herself back into the starting line up, but it wasn't easy given the talent and depth the team possesses at every position this season. It's certainly not something Vujas or the Seminoles have experienced before.
"This team has a lot more depth," Vujas said. "It's kind of neat, because on any given night, anyone can step up and be the leading scorer or be the hero. We're deep in every position and we're growing as a team. I think that our depth is going to play a big role in how far we go this year."
So just how far can this team go?
"Last year, getting into the NCAA Tournament was a step up," Vujas said. "But now, we've already done that. This year, we want to take the next step, which is the Sweet 16 or the Elite Eight. Not making it to the tournament hasn't even crossed my mind at all. We're definitely going."
Pretty loud and clear from someone who has a quiet confidence!