Natalie Kucowski

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Natalie Kucowski is on the Lafayette women’s basketball team.  She hails from Philadelphia.  She is one of only three Lafayette basketball players (men and women) to have scored over 1000 points and pulled down over 1000 rebounds.  She is the only woman to accomplish this feat.  To put that in perspective, Lafayette has been playing women’s basketball since 1972.  More shocking – she is only a junior!

But Natalie is more than just a basketball player.  With permission from both Lafayette and author Mandy Housenick, I will allow Mandy to tell the rest of the story:

Fully Commmitted:  Natalie Kucowski
By Mandy Housenick GoLeopards.com Featured Columnist

Dr. James Schaffer likes to get to his work area inside Lafayette College’s Acopian Engineering Center early.

The chemical and biomolecular engineering professor often has company on those weekday mornings: junior Natalie Kucowski.

“She will have had a game the night before and she’ll already be in the lab at 7:15,” Schaffer said.

Kucowski is fully committed in all aspects of her life. The chemical engineering major excels in the classroom and is approaching legendary status as a member of the Lafayette women’s basketball team.

The forward is close to becoming the first in program history to score 1,000 points and grab 1,000 rebounds in a career.

“I have been here 30 years,” Dr. Schaffer said, “and I remember a lot of the students, particularly those who have something special about them. It might have been raw intellect and how they combine their academic passion with something else.”

“I have never seen a student who works harder and cares more about her teammates than Natalie.”

Kucowski’s athletic accomplishments are impressive. The Philadelphia native owns the school’s single-season rebounding record (343 last season; she’s about to break that mark this year) as well as the career mark. She is the only Leopard to win Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year.

On Jan. 11, 2020, the 21-year-old became the 19th Lafayette women’s player to reach 1,000 career points. She is on pace to finish among the league’s career top 10 in that category. Barring injury, the 6-foot-3 junior will break the PL record of 1,152 career rebounds set by Holy Cross‘ Lauren Manis this season.

In addition to being a solid student, Kucowski is a peer mentor because she felt it was important to give back to a program that helped her a freshman.

“(Current senior track & field team member Kate Mozzochi) was extremely helpful,” Kucowski said, “and the experience I had with her was the reason I decided I wanted to become a peer mentor. She was awesome. She was just a resource I had in helping me adjust to being in college.”

Kucowski’s basketball statistics are ridiculously impressive, but it is her work ethic in the classroom, on the court and on campus that make her special, according to those who know her best.

For every double-double she produces, there are countless ways in which she brings out the best in her teammates.

She is as supportive as she is talented.

“She puts her teammates first,” senior guard-forward Tasha Vipond said. “If the coaches want her to focus on making free throws, they’ll threaten to make the rest of the team run if she misses (in practice). She doesn’t want to let the team down, so she’ll make them.

“And off the court, she’s there for everyone.”

Vipond knows first-hand how generous Kucowski is. The Iowa native does not go home during many holiday breaks. Kucowski made sure Vipond was not alone on campus. She invited Vipond to her northeast Philadelphia home to spend Thanksgiving and Easter with her family.

“She’s a great friend,” Vipond said. “She genuinely cares for me. She’s looked out for me as a friend. She’s the type of person that if you tell her you’ve got a big exam coming up, she’ll always check in and ask you about it.”

Kucowski came to College Hill after a stellar career at Saint Basil Academy. She was a four-year varsity letter winner, helped the team to three consecutive District 1 titles and served as team captain during her senior season.

The daughter of Kenneth and Kathleen Kucowski built a well-rounded resume before Lafayette. She graduated with high honors, was a member of the National Honor Society and served as class president as a junior and senior.

But she arrived at Lafayette like many others. She needed to adjust to life as a college student and athlete. That required a lot of work.

It never scared Kucowski. It motivated her.

Kucowski worked hard in the weight room to strengthen her chances to survive the battles with more seasoned, bigger, stronger post players. She studied the finer points of a college defensive system so she could be a steady contributor even when her offense came and went.

“When you look at most players’ stat lines from high school,” Lafayette coach Kia Damon-Olson said, “there is a transition regardless of what they accomplished. Their college stats don’t mirror them exactly.

“Particularly with post players, the transition is a little slower because of the physicality. I will say that Natalie has had one of the more seamless transitions to college in my coaching career.”

Kucowski has proven that rebounding is an art born out of effort and desire as much as talent and size. She recognized that it is one of the many ways a player can contribute aside from scoring.

The three-year starter also recognized that preparation is a necessity no matter what you’re doing on the court in college.

“The biggest and hardest transition for me was the mental engagement side,” she admitted. “In high school, you can get away with maybe not being in position or not being 100 percent dialed in on the defensive plan.

“But in college all of that changes. Communication on defense and knowing different coverages is a big adjustment that just takes time and experience to be able to understand and to be able to execute.”

Kucowski averaged 10.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game as a freshman at Lafayette. She had 15 double-doubles last year as a sophomore and already has 17 this season.

But there’s more to her game. She’s never met an open teammate she didn’t want to pass to. That is her helpful nature coming out again.

“Anything you ask Natalie to do,” Damon-Olson said, “if it’s about the team she’s all for it. If it’s about the team winning, she’s for it.”

Kucowski is a major reason why Lafayette has its most Patriot League victories in a season since the 1993-94 campaign. Her current season rebounding average (12.9 per game) would be the fourth highest in league history and is currently second in the nation.

“It’s just as rewarding being a rebounder,” she said.

The junior is considering a career in the renewable energy sector. She’s enjoying one of her current classes in which the students are using algae to make biofuels.

Schaffer has seen Kucowski’s enthusiasm, dedication and selflessness come out in the classroom and lab settings.

He said she’ll go above and beyond in group projects and is willing to put in extra time to get the desired grades.

“I just see that drive in her to want others to do well and be willing to carry more than her fair share of the load,” Schaffer said. “I see that when I watch her play. She takes as much pride in assists as she does points.

“She is going to be so successful when she leaves here no matter what she decides to do.”

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. The Philadelphia Flyers‘ young goalie, Carter Hart. is 20-2-2 and has led the Flyers to nine straight wins. They last lost on February 15.  They have a tough week starting with the Bruins at home on Tuesday and they are at Tampa Bay on Thursday.
  1. 76ers head coach Brett Brown was on the West Coast this weekend when his son, Sam, came to the Allen Phys. Ed. Center to play for Lower Merion in their state playoff game against Northampton. Sam plays for Lower Merion High School, the former high school of Kobe Bryant.  He is a freshman starter and scored 14 points.  He will be one to watch as his career continues.  Lower Merion won the game.
  1. Lafayette’s men’s basketball season came to an end Sunday. They were never in the game with regular season champion Colgate.  Colgate now takes on Boston University for the Patriot League championship.  My money is on Colgate to win back-to-back titles.
  1. For the Phillies to succeed this year, they will need better starting pitching than they had last season. They have added a new pitching coach, Bryan Price, and a new starter in Zack Wheeler.  If Nola, Arrieta, and Eflin stay strong, the pitching staff may not be a weakness.
  1. Congrats to Central and Freedom boys and the Nazareth, Freedom, Bethlehem Catholic, and Central girls for advancing into the second round of the PIAA basketball playoffs. Keep it going!!

 

 

Gary Laubach About Gary Laubach

Gary began his broadcasting career with Twin County in 1972. Twin County eventually became C-TEC and then RCN. Gary holds the dual role of Director of Media Services and Sports Director/Broadcaster. He currently broadcasts about 140 sports and entertainment broadcasts a year, and oversees the scheduling of all sporting events for RCN.

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