PLAINVILLE - Plainville girls basketball captain Caitlin Barker can describe her Senior Night back in early February in one word - perfect.
Sure, Barker dropped a game-high 22 points behind three 3-pointers in her final home game, a win against West Haven, but the day of perfection actually began hours before tipoff at Plainville High.
Division-III women’s basketball powerhouse Emmanuel College was taking on the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, just a 20 minute drive from Plainville, giving Barker a chance to scoot up I-84 East and meet face-to-face with Emmanuel head coach Andy Yosinoff and the Saints to deliver an important message.
Barker wanted to continue her basketball career at Emmanuel.
“I was able to go to that game and announce my commitment to the team in person,” Barker said. “They were all happy. Coach Yosinoff gave me a big hug. It was the perfect day.”
Barker ended her perfect day with a standing ovation from her home crowd back at Plainville, before announcing her decision to her current team. A month and a half later, she capped off a “dream” season by earning All-State honors, one last high school achievement before taking her talents to the collegiate level.
“That meant a lot to me,” Barker said. “It was a goal I’ve had since I was a freshman. I didn’t always think I had the potential to be All-State and just to receive that honor meant the world to me because I worked so hard to receive that honor.”
While it took Barker some time to realize her potential of being recognized among the best of the state, the possibility of achieving that goal was apparent by the end of her junior season, when she rebounded from ACL surgery to average 20.7 points per game and finish the year with 413 total points.
“It was something we talked about at the end of last season, that it was kind of one piece that was really out there as a goal to achieve,” Plainville head coach Jessica Neuweiler said of Barker’s rising All-State aspirations. “When it happened, I was so proud of her. It was a culmination of all her hard work and dedication. It was well-deserved. She put up phenomenal numbers throughout her career and had a great senior season.”
Barker’s goal to earn All-State recognition didn’t sprout until her junior year, but her goal to play college basketball had stuck with her since she was a freshman.
Entering her final season as a Blue Devil, that goal was starting to materialize into reality. Barker had narrowed her choices down to four schools, but Emmanuel stuck out to her. It wasn’t just the idea of playing for a head coach in Yosinoff who has more D-III wins than any other coach in women’s basketball history with 808. It was the chance to play in a family atmosphere that welcomed her with open arms from her first visit to Boston.
“The team was fantastic,” Barker said. “From the moment I met them, they made sure I was comfortable and asked me questions. It was really fun to be around them. Coach Yosinoff calls me a lot and lets me know what I have to do in the offseason to get ready. He really cares. That was the best part. They care.”
While Barker didn’t officially let Yosinoff know her decision until before her Senior Night game against West Haven, her mind had been made up six weeks earlier, when she met with Yosinoff before a Blue Devils game in late December, which also against West Haven.
“[Yosinoff] came to that game and talked to me, and he really made me feel like such a confident player,” Barker explained. “Other teams that visited me, I kind of left it like ‘OK, that was cool,’ but after talking to coach Yosinoff, I just walked away smiling. The attitude he has towards the game and the passion he has, and how he rubs it off on his players, from that moment I talked to him in person was the moment I knew I wanted to play there.”
Neuweiler walked away from her own conversations with Yosinoff equally impressed as Barker, making the senior even more confident in her decision.
“I told Caitlin I really respected how [Yosinoff] handled the recruiting process,” Neuwiler said. “I appreciated everything he did to make sure it was the right fit for Caitlin and giving her time to make her decision. With the program he’s built, I think it will be a nice fit for her.”
Barker gave Yosinoff every reason to believe she will be a nice fit in Emmanuel after averaging 22 points per game in her final season, including scoring her 1,000th career point. From personal milestones and statewide recognition to deciding the next phase of her career, Barker’s senior season as a whole had a sense of perfection much like the one she felt on Senior Night back in February.
“My senior year was like a dream,” Barker said. “Just being able to win was great, and getting my 1,000 points was the cherry on top of a perfect year. This is an incredible feeling, to have accomplished my dream.”