Turnaround in full swing for Kate Achter at UDM

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

When Kate Achter took over the girls basketball program at the University of Detroit Mercy, the Titans had won 11 games in the previous five seasons, reaching a low of 1-29 in 2022.
In Achter’s first year as the coach, UDM went 5-25, including a 3-17 mark in the Horizon League, but things have drastically changed for the better this season.
The Titans are currently 15-14 and 8-10 in the conference and are trying to make a push in the stretch run as the league tournament awaits.
Achter, a 2004 Clay alum, is known for her stellar basketball career with the Eagles and then at Bowling Green State University, which ended in 2008.
Now she’s living close to home and rebuilding a program while balancing her life as a mother and wife.
“Well, I would love to say it’s the job we’re doing (as coaches). We were hired to change a program. We won more games this season than I think in the last seven seasons combined,” Achter said. “The style of basketball that we play fits in our league. We’ve been able to develop our players in the program and supplement them with recruiting.
“I think the program turnaround is one the best in the country. I think people assume how easy it is to win games; it’s why people get jobs and lose jobs so quickly. I can’t undersell enough how much work we’ve put in, the staff, the players and their investments. It’s been a very hard two-year journey, but it’s been fruitful.”
Achter talked about her offensive and defensive philosophies.
“We run a combination of a motion, ball-screen offense. The brand draws two defenders, and we teach the kids to make the read. Attacking the basket or a post touch inside commands a double team, and you have to make a read out of it,” she said. “We’ve been doing a good job of it so far.
“The defense is all man-to-man. We do a little bit of pressing, a 2-2-1 press, run-and-jump press. It’s full man-to-man,” she said.
The starting lineup consists of 5-6 point guard Paris Gilmore, who is backed up by 5-5 point guard Myrna Hooper. Amaya Burch, who is 5-9, and Imani McNeal, who is 5-8, are the wings, and the 6-0 Irene Murua and the 6-1 Emma Trawally-Porta are the forwards.
The six players average between 6.0 points and 10.7 points.
Murua leads the team with an average of 10.7 points and 7.2 rebounds, Trawally-Porta puts up 9.6 points and 7.7 rebounds, McNeal is averaging 7.7 points, followed by Burch (7.4 ppg), Hooper (6.8 ppg) and Gilmore (6.0 ppg). Annika Corcoran, who has played in five games this season, has averaged 7.8 points. Jada Moorehead is averaging 4.7 points and Makayla Jackson is putting up 3.4 points per game.
The Titans play their games at Calihan Hall, which seats just over 7,900 people. It is named after Bob Calihan, who went on to become the school’s winningest coach. Thirteen years ago, the court was named Dick Vitale Court in honor of the ESPN analyst, who coached the boys team at UDM starting in 1973, and later served as the school’s athletic director.
Before coming to UDM, a Jesuit university that is home to over 5,000 students, Achter was the coach at Loyala Chicago, rebuilding the program there in six seasons. She was also an assistant coach at Xavier and St. Bonaventure before that.
In her coaching career, Achter has seen student-athletes receive 21 all-conference selections, one Freshman of the Year and one Sixth Women of the Year accolades.
After graduating from BGSU, Achter played a year of professional basketball in Greece before returning to the U.S. and working as a graduate assistant with the Falcons. She is in the BGSU Hall of Fame.
A four year starter, she was a part of a senior class in ’08 that went a combined 108-23 during their tenure at BG, while also going 57-7 in the MAC. Their remarkable team success included a historic run to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. That 2006-07 team won 31 games, which set school and MAC records for victories in a season. Achter was the MAC Player of the Year as a senior in ’08 and first-team all-MAC, after earning second team all-MAC the previous two seasons. She also was named to the MAC All-Tournament Team three times in her four years, including in 2005, when she earned MAC Tournament MVP honors.
Achter played for Curt Miller, who is now the coach of the Los Angeles Sparks.
She talked about the demands of being a coach.
“This situation has been the best since I was at St. Bonaventure. One of the reasons I like working here is because of the freedom — I know what is most important and deserves my time. Sometimes you have to take an 11 p.m. phone call from a recruit on the West Coast,” she said. “I’m spending more time with someone else’s children than my own (during the season).
“My wife, Tina, gets it, she can relate to the time and knows I’m not skipping out because I want to skip out," she said. The couple has two kids, Reese, who is 4, and Archie, who is 2.
As one might expect, Achter is very happy to be closer to her friends and family. Oregon is just 70 miles south of Detroit.
“I’m enjoying myself a lot – the move has been great for our family. I’m close to home for the first time in my career,” she said. “I’ve been able to have family at our games. The administration’s support has been amazing. Detroit wants winners.
Achter was a student-athlete at one time and knows how demanding it can be.
“It’s legitimately a full-time job and then some if you want to be a really good player. People think it’s just class, traveling and games. Yes, that is true, but you have to take time taking care of your body, working on basketball maintenance, putting the extra work in, watching film, going to study tables,” she said. “It can take 12 hours out of the day. Some people are better at balancing that than others.”
One of Achter’s assistants is Oak Harbor legend Andrea Cecil, who also played at BG before finishing up at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Cecil works with Trawally-Porta, Murua, Moorehead and Latifah Amzil. She was previously the director of basketball operations but is now an assistant coach.
“Her responsibilities changed a little bit with her promotion,” Achter said of Cecil. “She’s a great basketball mind; she’s local, and I had familiarity with her. She mentors (four players), does all the things like scouting and recruiting visits on campus. It’s a little different than what she was doing a year ago.”
Achter’s sisters are Susan and Jessica, and her brother is Ross. Roger, her father, coached her at Clay, and Marianne is her mother. Her cousins, A.J. and Austin, are well known for their athletic prowess as well.
“My father is very driven; my mother is as well. I think when you grow up in an environment where people are driven to be very good at their profession, it leads you to be driven. I’m one of four kids, so fighting and competing for the best dinner roll was a sport,” Achter said. “We played together outside and everything was a competition. I don’t think you get to teach those things.
“I’m lucky to have a really supportive home life — close to my aunts, uncles and cousins,” she said. “It’s led us to find success in our personal adult lives. I’ve been very lucky and fortunate enough to have a family that supports me.”


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