Don’t bother telling Kate Spradlin she isn’t supposed to start for the Longwood women’s basketball team. As the team’s lone walk-on, Spradlin ’19, a business major from Blue Ridge, wasn’t supposed to become one of Longwood’s top-five scoring options this year. After missing nearly all of last season with a shoulder injury, she wasn’t supposed to bounce back to become the team’s top 3-point shooter. After not receiving a single Division I scholarship offer out of high school, she wasn’t supposed to win a starting job on a Division I basketball team. But here she is, in her sophomore season, all of those things.
Spradlin’s journey from walk-on to major contributor in less than a year is no accident. She didn’t luck into her success, and she had many opportunities along the way to settle for less. Settling for less, however, isn’t in her vocabulary.
“Kate Spradlin is, in a nice way, an animal,” said Longwood’s head coach Bill Reinson, now in his seventh year. “She puts in a ridiculous amount of time on her own in an effort to improve. You can walk through the gym any time, any day, and it would not be surprising to see Kate getting some shots up.”
Kate Spradlin is, in a nice way, an animal. She puts in a ridiculous amount of time on her own in an effort to improve.Bill Reinson, head women's basketball coach
Spradlin’s drive to better herself might border on obsessive, but it also is inspiring to those who witness it. She has a reputation for being the first at the door of Willett Hall in the mornings, waiting for a Longwood staff member—or anybody with a key—to let her on the court so she can get an early start on the hundreds of shots she takes each day. Those marathon solo training sessions paid off in Spradlin’s sophomore season. After playing in just five games as a freshman, she blossomed into Longwood’s fourth-leading scorer in 2016-17, averaging 7.0 points per game, and was the Lancers’ top 3-point threat, shooting at a .349 clip.
Her emergence defied the odds. She finished her high-school career without a single Division I scholarship offer, despite excelling in several sports at Lord Botetourt High School in Blue Ridge. Determined to challenge herself at the Division I level, she turned down several Division II scholarships.
Then she contacted Longwood to ask for a chance to realize her dream.
“From the first time we watched her play, it was apparent how hard she worked and the type of passion that she has for the game,” Reinson said. “We need those type of players. Once we had the opportunity to meet her, it was a no-brainer.
Spradlin became one of the most valuable players on Longwood’s roster, ranking second in minutes per game with 31.8 per contest. The bounce back in her athletics career came with an equally impressive academic performance. Spradlin has been named to the President’s List—a distinction given to those who earn a 4.0 grade-point average—in each of her three semesters at Longwood.