The recent Villanova vs. St. Joseph’s women’s basketball game was an unusual one for two of the participants.
On one side of the Dec. 2 battle was Kelly Jekot, a junior guard on the Villanova squad. On the other was a familiar face — her sister, Katie Jekot, a redshirt-freshman guard for St. Joe’s.
“It was very strange,” Kelly said this week. “We never played against each other before. We always played on the same team.”
Making matters worse, the Cumberland Valley grads, who guided the eagles to three consecutive PIAA Class 4A championships, found themselves guarding each other at times during defensive switches in the 47-35 victory by Kelly’s Wildcats.
Kelly scored five points on 2-for-5 shooting, including making the only 3-pointer she attempted in 34 minutes.
Katie, who played 31 minutes, scored two points and pulled down a team-high eight rebounds with three assists.
“It was really crazy,” Katie said. “We played together, practiced together in the same household. It was definitely weird, but at the same time it was nice everyone could watch us at same place.”
The two did greet each other before the contest as Katie told her sister to have fun and the older sibling replied with sage advice to not be nervous.
Of course, the meeting was also a contrast in where the teams are at the moment. Villanova is an experienced bunch, off to a 7-2 start to the season, while the young Hawks squad is 3-7.
It says something about the Jekot family to have two siblings starting for their respective Division I basketball teams, both in the famed Big 5 of Philadelphia schools.
St. Joseph’s women’s coach Cindy Griffin said that is somewhat a rarity.
“That would be something to research for girls playing the same sport and getting scholarships,” Griffin said. “It is remarkable. It’s good DNA, that’s for sure.”
Plus, according to Kelly, two more Jekot sisters — Julie, a sophomore starting guard at Cumberland Valley, and Jill, a seventh-grader — have similar aspirations.
“Both of our parents have always been encouraging,” Kelly said. “Dad played basketball in college and mom won a national championship in field hockey [both at Lock Haven].”
Kelly at Villanova
A two-time high school Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year at Cumberland Valley, 6-foot Kelly has continued receiving accolades at the collegiate level.
Following her freshman season with the Wildcats, she was named the Big 5 Rookie of the Year. In the spring, she earned Big 5 Most Improved Player honors following a stellar sophomore campaign.
In 2017-18, she started all 32 games, averaging 11.3 points and 4 rebounds per contest per game, including five performances of 20 or more points.
This season she is off to another solid start. Kelly enters the weekend second on the Wildcats with her 13.3 points a game. Her 21 assists are also second on the team, as is her field goal percentage of 46.1 percent.
“I am very comfortable here,” she said. “The whole summer before my sophomore year I took advantage of every opportunity to learn.”
Used to a run-and-gun style at Cumberland Valley, Kelly said her major adjustment was trying to learn a new system in Villanova’s patented long-possession offense under long-time coach Harry Perretta.
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She added that even though she was a standout in high school, she needed to bring more to the table at ‘Nova.
“In high school, I was taller than those I played against,” Kelly said. “When I got here, I realized that alone wasn’t going to cut it.”
Although the Wildcats lost to Notre Dame in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, Kelly said that was one of her highlights to this point.
“To say we played the national champions was a great experience,” she said. “Another one was when we beat Duke [64-55 in November, 2017].”
Kelly is also on target to graduate in the spring, as a junior, and return for grad school and her senior eligible season.
“A lot of my teammates are following that path,” she said. “Villanova is amazing, and I can say that Cumberland Valley prepared me for that.”
Katie at St. Joe’s
The 5-9 Katie was a major part of three straight PIAA Class 4A championships at Cumberland Valley. She was first-team All-State after scoring 14.5 per game as a senior with the Eagles.
Unfortunately, her St. Joseph’s career started a year later than anticipated after a knee injury cost her the 2017-18 season.
Still, after missing that entire campaign, Katie’s career debut was a terrific one as she dropped a season-high 16 points at Temple, where she also had four steals.
Two games later, Katie had a season-high five assists against Penn in a Big 5 battle. Currently, she averages 6.9 points and 4.2 rebounds in 27.4 minutes per contest.
She is learning to trust that her knee can do things it did prior to the torn ACL sustained in November, 2017.
“It was horrible. I had never been hurt before except a game or two as a senior in high school,” Katie said. “With all that waiting for college basketball, coming to the realization I was going to have to sit out a year was really hard on me. The coaches and players really helped me get through it.”
Griffin is impressed with how well Katie has responded coming off a major injury.
“A lot of things are firsts for her — her first game, first travel — she is continuing to get more comfortable,” said Griffin.
One thing Griffin has noticed is how “relentless Katie is at both ends of the court. Her skill level is very high.”
Katie likes where she is at this point of her career, but is striving for constant improvement.
“I think coach has given me multiple opportunities to show myself,” she said. “Mentally, there’s things I can work on. Coming off an injury like this is not easy, as anyone who went through it can tell you.
“I am having a good time. I love all of my teammates. We’ve made so many connections here. Everybody is very close on this team. It’s a great community we have here, and once conference play starts, I think we will do well.”
Much like her older — and younger — sisters, she will be ready. It’s in the genes.