By Harrison Taylor, Staff Writer
What do you do when the thing you love the most is suddenly out of your reach? Do you give up? Or do you find another way to channel that love in a different way?
Most athletes who tear their ACL probably wouldn’t go the route that Katelyn Grisillo, Wingate’s new women’s assistant basketball coach, decided to go.
Grisillo, a graduate assistant coach here for the past two years, recently earned a promotion to the full-time staff after assistant coach Celeste Stewart left to take a new job at East Carolina University.
As she comes in to tell me about the career she had before coming to Wingate, Grisillo beams with level-headed energy with a positive, headstrong attitude pressing on the front of her words. She apologizes for being late, as she’s been out all day preparing for the camp her team is about to endure, and apparently, I’m lucky I caught her before it started.
Grisillo quickly goes through a decade and a half worth of athletic history with me; starting to play when she was a young in Charleston, S.C., her transfer to USC-Aiken, and her eventual ACL tear during her junior year that changed things for her.
“You know, two years on the bench…it kind of gave me a different perspective. I wanted to know the ins and outs of what we were doing. And honestly what brings me back is the relationships…those coaches and the relationships, they formed with me, they still valued me as a person,” Grisillo says, speaking passionately of her experiences that led her to pursue coaching as a potential career path.
In addition to loving the game of basketball, Grisillo loves to play racquetball, has a dog named Jessie (a retriever/husky mix), and clearly has a strong connection with her players, as one walks in to get a room key from her while she continues to explain her love for the game.
Grisillo was a graduate assistant coach and a student in Wingate’s Master’s in Sports Management program before getting hired. She’s worked with the team and Coach Ann Hancock as they won two South Atlantic Conference championships.
“We’ve done pretty well…we would all like to see us get a step further. We made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament two years in a row…we need to get across that hump and get that Elite Eight appearance. That would be a nice place to get to,” she says.
The topic of winning and getting further as a team brings a new side out of her as she speaks, looking annoyed by having to even mention that a school like Carson-Newman made it further than they did in the NCAA tournament.
“They made it this year and they’re out of our conference. It would be nice if we could be the one to make it out of the SAC.”
But, she reiterates that winning isn’t just about games.
“I think that enhancing our winning culture that we want to create is important. Not just winning games, not just having a fantastic record, but, doing things that winners do…going the extra mile on the court, in the classroom, as people. Coach Hancock teaches a lot of life lessons. [She says]‘Be a giver, not a taker.’”
From turning an injury into a new perspective, and then into a new career, Grisillo has come a long way from playing as a kid in Charleston, and she plans to continue driving those messages of perseverance into her team.
“Whatever we can do to instill those principles in the girls, that matters more than making it past the second round,” Grisillo finishes, before speaking more on the chemistry she and Coach Hancock have and the enjoyment she gets working with her.
Grisillo leaves quickly, seemingly preparing for the camp she’s about to go through with her girls. It’s clear her energy is welcome on the court, and her love for the game is still thriving through the “winning culture” she and Hancock are making sure the team is prescribed to.