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NEWS: Katherine Follis signs first professional contract in Germany

Photo: Greg Mason.
Photo: Greg Mason.

Turning in a career year in her final season of eligibility, Gee-Gees forward Katherine Follis made the most out of her one season with the Garnet and Grey. Now, the 2019-20 OUA Third Team All-Star will embark on her next challenge, life as a professional basketball player for USV Jena in Germany.

Follis joined the Gee-Gees for the 2019-20 season after spending her undergraduate career with the Ryerson Rams. The Toronto, Ont. product immediately made a positive impact on the nationally-ranked team's frontcourt. Over the course of the season, Follis averaged career-high per game averages in points (13.2), rebounds (6.0), assists (1.3), free throw percentage (66.0), and minutes per game (26.6). Follis led the OUA in field goal percentage, finishing second in the nation shooting 58.7 per cent from the field. 

Follis earned OUA All-Star honours for the first time in her career, all while completing a Master's degree in Human Kinetics with a Concentration in Sport Management. 

Coming into university, Follis did not give much thought to a career playing pro after finishing school. To a lot of women's basketball players, particularly at the U SPORTS level, the amount and quality of opportunities has not been very accessible. However, over the course of her time at Ryerson, a few teammates turning pro and going overseas opened Follis' eyes to the opportunity.

"In my second year, two of our graduating seniors at Ryerson went overseas to play pro," Follis said. "That was the first introduction to me that women's players that stay in Canada can go overseas and play pro, fit in and grow to build their resumes there. That's where the seed was planted in my head."

Setbacks from injuries would then cause Follis to temporarily lose sight of her goal, until a solid final season at Ryerson and a move to Ottawa made it possible again. 

"After tearing both of my ACLs, I kind of gave up on the hope of going pro for a little bit," she said. "Coming to Ottawa, I was surrounded by such a great team environment and coaching staff and I was able to have the success that I did. It really gave me the confidence in having that dream that I used to have to play overseas." 

"It's really special for Katherine to be able to realize her goal and for us to have someone like her to represent the Gee-Gees at the pro level is quite an honour," said Gee-Gees head coach Andy Sparks.

"We asked her to be more of an offensive threat and to play more of a leadership role on and off the court and she managed to fill that role very well. She was one of the best shooters in the country consistently and she's going to take that to any level and play well. It was really an honour to have her come and play with us last year."

USV Jena play in the Regionalliga, Germany's third division of professional women's basketball. They are based in Jena, a city of over 100,000 in Central Germany. Last season, the team had a 14-4 record and sat in first-place in the Southeast Division prior to the COVID-19 shutdown. 

"My goal for my first year is just settling into life and basketball in Europe, obviously it's a big move across continents, so that is going to be huge," said Follis. 

"I want to get my feet under me and see how the European leagues work, compared to North American leagues. While I'm there to play basketball, later on in life, I want to stay involved in the sport world for work. After completing this Master's in Sport Management, I'm really interested to see how professional European leagues operate."