Gators Graduate Assistant Continues Her Illustrious Basketball Journey
By: Christian Milcos and Jeremy Jackson
A Bustling Beginning
University of Florida women’s basketball graduate assistant, Kaitlynn Pacholke is well liked by fans and team members on campus. However, some may not know that the story leading up to her ultimately becoming a Gator is quite unique.
Pacholke started her basketball career at a young age in Wisconsin where her mom was a well-known high school basketball coach. She then moved to Tennessee and ultimately ended up in Tampa, Florida; always maintaining a love for basketball throughout her and her family’s travels.
Kaitlynn was lightly recruited coming out of Freedom High School in Tampa where her mom coached her but she eventually decided to play for Jacksonville State in Alabama. Ms. Pacholke’s travels then brought her to her eventual home of Gainesville to play for the Santa Fe College Saints. Finally, her senior year brought Kaitlyn to Newberry College in Newberry, South Carolina where she saw the most success of her basketball career shooting 35% from the field and 30% from behind the arc.
A Crucial Decision
After graduating college Palchoke was faced with a difficult decision: attempt to continue her playing career overseas or pursue a more practical career near home. After much debate and speculation, Kaitlynn decided to have the best of both worlds by becoming a basketball coach. “My mom was my high school coach so she was definitely my biggest inspiration in pursuing coaching women’s basketball,” stated Palchoke when asked what went into her decision to become a coach, “being a point guard throughout my career, coming from basketball family. Those kind of experiences prepared me to take the next step into coaching.”
After pit stops coaching at the PG College, PROtential, (both in Tampa) and even making a return to her Alma Mater of Newberry, Kaitlynn landed a gig coaching a girls AAU team near her hometown. This opportunity brought about a very unique experience in her young coaching career, “my team was a heavy underdog going into that season. We banded together and were able to upset a lot of very tough teams in a competitive league. We won a lot of games we weren’t supposed to win and I got to see the girls win the first medals of their life so that was special. It was a great introduction to coaching.
Back to Gainesville
Finally, Coach Pacholke was contacted by the Gators women’s basketball coaching staff to interview for one of their open graduate assistant spots. “I knew a couple of assistant coaches on staff from playing at various camps around Florida when I was in high school and always told them to contact me when anything opened up,” Kaitlynn explained, “I was thrilled when I finally got called in for an interview and I eventually got the job as a graduate assistant.”
Kaitlynn is now entering her second season on the Gators’ bench. After a disappointing upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Albany, she thinks her team will use this experience as motivation to compete even harder next season. This motivation will only be furthered by the addition of several elite recruits including, Syndey Morang and Delicia Washington who are both currently given a 90 overall grade on ESPN. Coach Pacholke believes the team was especially selective in choosing incoming freshmen when it came to their work ethic, saying, “they are all great kids coming in who we are very excited about. Their mentality is already very impressive.” The plethora of freshmen Florida will have on the roster come next winter also presents the team’s biggest challenge, according to Pacholke. However, Kaitlynn will not have to tackle this obstacle alone as head coach, Amanda Butler will continue to hold her positon on the bench. Butler will enter her 9th season; developing his young staff and players.
Kaitlynn’s long term coaching plans include rising up the women’s college basketball coaching ranks. She plans to eventually become an assistant and ultimately a head coach at either the division 2 or 3 level. For now, Coach Pacholke will continue preparing the new Gators for next November when Florida will travel to Jacksonville to open up their season in a tip-off tournament.
Listen to the full interview here: