When you first meet KSC freshman Kelsey Cognetta, you may underestimate her. Polite and unassuming, she gives the impression that she’s easy-going, maybe even passive. But anyone who’s seen her on the basketball court knows that’s the farthest thing from the truth.
This semester, Cognetta transferred from William Paterson University with a difficult (some might have said unrealistic) goal in mind. Despite already missing half the regular season, she intended to play point guard for the Lady Owls.
“I was really nervous,” Cognetta admits. “Being thrown into a new place and adjusting to everything, it’s tough.”
So far, she’s made quite the transition, according to teammates. Coming from a place she describes as “pretty much a commuter school,” Cognetta has had to adjust to a whole new lifestyle.
“She came into an environment that was completely new to her,” Head Coach Keith Boucher said. “She has to get used to her teammates, social life, academics, it’s not an easy thing to do.”
But Cognetta is making it look easy, and her aggressive style of play is a big reason why.
“She’s a courageous player,” sophomore forward Courtney Roberts said. “She always gives 110 percent on every play.”
Perhaps the reason she seizes every moment on the court is because she knows what it’s like to be stuck off of it. Cognetta was a three-sport athlete at Stamford High School in Conn., starting for the lacrosse, basketball and field hockey teams. She had high hopes for her junior year before a devastating ACL tear forced her to sit out the entire basketball season.
And so the long rehabilitation process began (an ACL tear is on average a 12 month injury). Cognetta keeping her head up the entire time; refusing to be discouraged, she rebounded from the injury strongly and had a phenomenal senior year. Cognetta even caught the attention of Keith Boucher and coaches everywhere with her unique style of play.
Hopeful to make an impact on a college team, things were looking up for Cognetta. That is until a fateful day last spring when she tore her other ACL. Now she was dealing with the prospect of sitting out another year of basketball.
Junior guard Vicky Vitale, whose dealing with an ACL injury of her own, is familiar with the pain.
“It’s the most frustrating thing in the world,” Vitale said. “When your body’s not doing what you want it to, you have to be tough.”
Cognetta headed to school hoping to help her team late in the season, but quickly realized that William Paterson University wasn’t for her. So she made a call to her high school coach and asked him to send Keene State College a tape of her play.
“I got sent a DVD and as soon as I saw it I recognized her,” Coach Boucher said. “She has tremendous basketball IQ and she pushes the ball well.”
So she made the decision to come to KSC this semester and after watching other players on the court for two of the last three years, she’s finally enjoying some playing of her own.
“I love the action of the game,” Cognetta said. “That fast pace.” As Cognetta talked about the game she loves, one could almost picture her rehabbing desperately.
That desperation is reflected in her style of play. She doesn’t take anything for granted according to her teammates. She appreciates every game she plays, every moment she’s in, every cut she makes because it’s all been taken away from her before.
Take a defensive rebound for instance. Most players are content walking the ball up and running the offensive set the coach calls for them. But Cognetta sees a defense in transition and has other ideas. She knows they’re tired. She knows they’re vulnerable. She attacks.
Whizzing by defenders and slicing into the paint like a sports car winding through traffic, Cognetta penetrates defenses relentlessly, relishing the chaos as defenders on their heels try in vain to slow her down.
“She’s a very up-tempo player,” Roberts said. “And she gets excited for big plays, which is a great characteristic.”
So now the team has found their starting point guard. But at times they still struggle to score. As the playoffs loom, the Lady Owls hold a record of 7-13. They are young and with youth comes inconsistency. But the future is bright for the team and their scrappy new player.
Zach Winn can be contacted at