Katie Ledden enjoyed a solid freshman season on Arthur L. Johnson High School (NJ) girl’s basketball team, leading her squad in points with 295, and finishing in second in rebounds with 239.
But Ledden pondered a move to a more prominent basketball high school, prompting her to transfer to Rutgers Prep in August.
Ledden said her decision to leave was not easy and should have happened earlier since she has aspirations to play Division I college hoops after graduation.
“It was scared to leave my town and comfort zone,” Ledden said. “I should’ve started off at Rutgers Prep (as a freshman). I think Rutgers Prep will help me get to where I want to go. After my freshman year, I started to realize this is what I wanted to do and needed to do.
“My dream is to play Division I basketball,” she continued. “I like to aim my goals high so I can push myself to be better.”
The 6-foot, 135-pound Ledden has joined a historically successful Rutgers Prep program that posted a 25-5 overall record and made it to the NJSIAA sectional tournament’s final round in the South Jersey, Non-Public B game, losing to power Trenton Catholic, 53-48. last season.
Moreover, Ledden will be under the tutelage of one of the best high school basketball coaches in New Jersey in Mary Klinger, who has been at the Lady Argonauts’ helm for over 35 years.
Additionally, she said that she is in a very warm and encouraging environment at the Somerset area high school.
“Mary Klinger is a fantastic coach and the program has a winning tradition,” Ladden said. “I like to have the structure in my play, and that’s what Mary Klinger has in her team. Plus, the school has a good community feeling, and everyone has been so welcoming and supportive.”
Growing up, due to her height, Ledden would hold down the center position. But she has worked tirelessly to expand her game, adding different elements to her style of play to increase her versatility.
One improved feature is Ledden’s step-back jumper, a move that gives her a little separation from the defender, allowing her to launch a better shot.
The 16-year-old said that maneuver came into existence for her just recently. Ledden noted that she added it to her offensive arsenal while playing with her former AAU team, the NJ Cardinals, run by head coach Michele Sharp, another highly-respected coach she said that has been instrumental in her hoops growth and recognition.
“My step-back jumper, I have developed that over the last year,” said Ledden, who will be playing with Exodus NYC during the AAU season. “I feel I’m becoming more of a versatile player. I like to play inside and outside. This year, I worked on my game as a guard. I feel I’m a lot more comfortable as a guard. But I’m in the development as a more well-rounded player.”
But don’t get Ledden wrong, as she said, “I still enjoy playing the post, but I have additional guard moves that I’ve added.”
Though Ledden could have remained on the Lady Crusaders’ roster, and been a standout, she believes transferring to Rutgers Prep will afford her more exposure and opportunities in the future.
Sure, the Clark, N.J., native understands there is no guarantee of how much playing time she will receive on the Lady Argonauts, a team loaded with talent, this year. But Ledden said she just wants to get on the high school hardwood and earn her stripes with the Lady Argonauts.
“I’ve been trying to prove myself in practice,” Ledden said. “It’s been a big adjustment. I don’t expect to start, just want to play as hard as I can, and see where I can contribute when I’m on the floor.”
Ledden said one thing she needs to improve upon is her cerebral approach to the sport.”
I tend to overthink things,” she admitted. “I need to stop overthinking everything. I do my best when I’m relaxed and trust my ability. I think I need to relax and control what I can control.”
As far as COVID-19 restrictions go, with no fans in the stands. Ledden said, “I would love to play in front of a lot of people in a big game, but I’m just happy to be playing.”
Rutgers Prep tips off its high school hoops season on Thursday, January 28 at 4:30 p.m. at North Hunterdon.
To watch Ledden’s highlights, visit her YouTube link.
— Jerry Del Priore
Photos: Courtesy of Katie Ledden.