Former Manhattan High standout Catherine Carmichael is coming home, at least for one night.
The former All-State selection for the Indians returns tonight with her 23rd-ranked University of Kansas volleyball team, as the Jayhawks get set to play No. 17 Kansas State at Ahearn Field House at 7.
“I’m very excited to go back,” Carmichael said after her Jayhawks defeated K-State in four sets in Lawrence last month. “(Manhattan) is my hometown. I’ll know a lot of people there.
“I grew up in Manhattan, but I’ve always been a KU fan… my brothers were always KU fans. There’s a lot of symbolism, going back, but I’m just excited (to be back).”
Carmichael, whose older brother Jackie is a starter for the Illinois State basketball team, said picking KU was an easy choice.
The 6-foot-2 Carmichael said the most difficult decision was actually deciding between volleyball and basketball. After all, Carmichael is the Indians’ all-time leader in blocks.
“KU was my one real big volleyball offer,” Carmichael said. “The rest were a lot of basketball offers. There wasn’t a lot of attention from K-State. It was mostly from KU.
“Most people know I have an older brother who plays basketball and I’ve done basketball my entire life. So, anybody who knows me, knows I’m kind of a risk-taker. Basketball was something that was very common to me and something that was very comfortable with, so I thought, I’m going to do something outside of my comfort zone. My brother plays basketball, so I’m going to do something I can do for myself.”
Carmichael was initially a middle blocker for the Jayhawks, but recently switched to outside hitter. She’s currently third on the team in kills with 239. In the win against the Wildcats, Carmichael posted nine kills and a career-high 8.5 blocks.
K-State head coach Suzie Fritz said Carmichael was always a player on the Wildcats’ radar, but admitted she was more of a project — developmentally out of high school — and that by the time a closer look was taken, she had already committed to KU.
“She’s a tremendous athlete,” Fritz said this week. “When she came out of high school she was also a tremendous athlete. She was a multi-sport athlete and had not really dedicated herself to volleyball at the point. She was still in some ways developmental, in regards to her experience in volleyball, but tremendously athletic.
“Of course, we would have liked an athlete of that potential, but she committed to Kansas relatively early. It has taken her a couple of years to evolve into the kind of player she’s become, but she’s certainly come a long way from where she started. (KU) has done a good job with her… she’s figured out a lot of things and is really, really good.”
Carmichael said the transition from high school basketball star to the Division-I level of volleyball was not easy.
“I sat in my dorm and thought, ‘What was I thinking?’” she said. “I didn’t sleep before the first day of two-a-days. It has been a very long process, but I trusted in the process and it’s starting to pay off. I came here my freshman year and couldn’t get the ball over the net and I’d mess up in drills, but I was determined, and my mom told me to just stay focused.
“I’ve come a long way… a really long way.”