PITTSBURGH — A freshman year is tough for many just adjusting to the load college presents, being away from home and building the independence that has long been sought.
For Duquesne guard Amanda Kalin, her freshman year had an additional wrinkle thrown in which tested her mentally.
Kalin was excited to play in her first game at Duquesne after summer workouts and a generally long offseason, but in last year’s season opener against Charlotte, she suffered her first legitimate injury, a hematoma with blood sitting on her leg and shortly after developed myositis ossificans.
Prior to enrolling at Duquesne, Kalin was a three-sport athlete also participating in both soccer and track-and-field but this injury provided a mental hurdle unlike any she had previously experienced.
“I did not handle it well,” she said. “I needed to learn that if I get injured not to stress about playing. I needed to accept the injury, work on getting better and slowly easing back into it. That was just difficult for me to grasp and it took me a while.”
Kalin did come back to the court last season and though the freshman campaign tested her, she has been able to look past it and show on-court success in a variety of facets.
Basketball wins out
While Kalin currently can be seen on the basketball court, that was not the first sport she learned how to play, that honor goes to soccer which she learned at five-years-old.
“I just think soccer is one of the sports where I think every kid has played in their life, at least at age four or five,” she said. “I have older sisters and they did it. I think my parents just threw me into soccer so that was kind of why it always was.”
Basketball first came into play when Kalin switched from a public school to a Catholic school in fifth grade. If it was for not that switch, Kalin believes she would not play basketball since in public school, the season ran concurrently with soccer.
At the time, soccer always came first so transferring allowed for basketball to become a possibility and her love for the sport has only grown.
“I just love the game compared to any sport. I just love how anything could happen at any moment,” Kalin explained. “You could be down 10 points, but the game goes to the last second and I think that’s awesome. Basketball is a lot harder for me than the other sports, I had to work a lot harder, but I think that’s why I love it even more.”
Kalin was a goalkeeper and in high school received an offer from Rutgers to continue playing goalie, which she ultimately turned down.
That decision was based on Kalin understanding she would be bored standing in goal and basketball being more of a fun experience for her, in addition to having a stronger love for the court game over the pitch.
When Kalin committed to Duquesne, she did so knowing she did not have any AAU basketball and because she likes to keep active and in shape, the track became a place for her.
“Naturally I am gifted athletically and I just enjoyed doing multiple sports because when you do one, you enjoy what you are doing, you can forget about the other one if you are not doing as well,” Kalin said. “You use different muscles and your body in different ways which has helped me develop into a better overall basketball player.”
Since stepping foot on Duquesne’s campus, Kalin has not missed a soccer game attending both the men’s and women’s matches at Rooney Field, a clear sign she does miss playing.
“Soccer would be an outlet,” said Kalin. “That’s why I like to go to the games just to be around the sport. I have a better appreciation for soccer now that I don’t play it anymore.”
As for track, Kalin has not ruled out a return there. With last year’s injury, competing was not a possibility but considering how she likes to stay in shape, a return would be considered.
Adjusting and overcoming
Similar to most freshmen, Kalin had trouble her freshman year and adjusting.
Kalin came in with high expectations and had to recognize that the college game involved players that are just as good if not better, something which can be tough to accept.
“You have to adjust your mindset and know that you can contribute to help the team win,” she said. “You have to accept your role and do what you do best. It is not about starting or playing the most but trying your best and making the most of when you are in the game. This year I have adjusted and accepted coming off the bench. I will do whatever it takes for our team to win, so that’s driving a lot, getting fouled, rebounding, cheering on the bench, that’s what I have to do and I accepted that and am more at peace with myself.”
Then came the hard hit against Charlotte, after which a doctor drained all of the affected blood out, only for Kalin to get myositis ossificans. As a result, calcium started to form to the point that Kalin could not bend her leg.
Kalin played in three games after the Charlotte contest, the last of which came Nov. 19, 2017 when she played five minutes against Iona. She did not return to game action until the team’s Atlantic 10 opener Dec. 31 against UMass, a span of eight contests.
Still coming back, Kalin admitted she played when she was still hurt and probably compensated, though not on purpose.
“Basketball is a big mental game,” said Kalin. “Getting injured did mess me up mentally and this year I am working on being more comfortable out there and not thinking as much. It’s about going out and playing the game and not to stress if I miss a shot. I’m not focused on my leg or running or cutting as fast. It is more thinking and takes away from playing the game. Luckily I am good now.”
Now as a sophomore, Kalin is playing with a confidence in all facets of her game and has taken advantage of her minutes, which included a career-high in points (15) and minutes (31) in a 64-58 road victory at Penn State.
“Amanda is a kid who didn’t play a ton as a freshman because of an injury but she’s been probably our best guard this year,” Duquesne women’s basketball coach Dan Burt said in an interview following the team’s win against Penn State. ” (She is the) total package, she can rebound the ball, can defend and she can score.”
Kalin is quick to credit the competitive practices in which everyone makes the player next to them better and then states that when game day comes, everyone will do whatever it takes to win.
While Kalin is not yet a junior, her experiences to date have provided many learning moments which continue to serve her well.
“I learned a lot about myself last year,” said Kalin. “I have to improve a lot on still. I can get through adversity. It doesn’t matter how mentally low you get, you can always get out of it.”