Jen Gast capped her senior year in basketball at Catonsville High as a state champion after the Comets defeated Walt Whitman in the 2017 Class 4A title game.
Gast, who also played soccer and was named 2017 Catonsville Times female co-athlete of the year with Amber Lally got a message from Comet basketball coach Mike Mohler after she ended her prep basketball career.
“I just told her your best basketball days are ahead of you and I really believe that her best basketball days aren’t behind her,” Mohler said. “I think once she gets going and gets serious about working the weights and really gets a ton of individual attention, I think she’s headed for great things,”
She had already done great things as a senior, earning All-Baltimore County first team and All-Metro second team honors, averaging 11.8 points and 10.2 rebounds for the 26-2 Comets.
Her prep career may have included a storybook ending, but her collegiate chapter was just beginning at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Head coach Phil Stern resigned in February of that season and Johnetta Hayes was named head coach in late April and all new assistants were hired.
“I was actually excited for a coaching change,” said Gast, who became strictly a post player in her first two seasons after being the top three-point threat at Catonsville her senior year. “The past couple of years, I stopped focusing on my threes.”
In the first game of her junior year, Gast had 12 points and 13 rebounds in a 92-50 victory over Gettysburg.
Hayes and assistant Christie Rogers were both post players and Gast appreciated that.
“She just had the most growth and it clicked for her one day, she just started attacking everything differently, her mentality was different, her work ethic was different,” said Rogers, who previously coached post players at Radford University. “I’ve been doing this for 11 years and she probably had the biggest growth that I’ve seen in a player in my time coaching.”
Even though she was only a junior and was enjoying her first season with extended playing time, it took a while for her personality to spread.
“When we first got there Jen was kind of the player that she wanted to just kind of hide in the background go under the radar, but as she started figuring things out and tasted a little bit of success for herself, her whole mentality changed,” Rogers said. “She definitely stepped up in that leadership role and became one of the biggest voices on the team, really always encouraging people and picking her teammates up and telling people what to do.”
“I kind of realized I had a coach who believed in me and I think it helped me grow and it gave me a lot of confidence and helped me become a leader,” Gast said.
Rogers and the rest of the team already saw that as they went 10-18 overall and 6-10 in the America East Conference where they lost as a sixth seed in the first round of the playoffs.
She got to finish her season, but when colleges closed she has been looking for other ways to work out away from the facility.