WNBA draft pick Natalie Kucowski ‘21 demonstrates how strength, perseverance, and passion lay the foundation for success at Lafayette—and beyond
In April, Natalie Kucowski ‘21 was selected by the Seattle Storm in the 2021 Women’s National Basketball Association Draft, becoming the first Leopard in history to be drafted into the WNBA. Achieving such a tremendous athletic feat while balancing the rigorous academic coursework that is a hallmark of a Lafayette education required focus, passion, and drive. Here, we get to know the chemical engineering major and learn how her Lafayette experience enabled her to pursue her dream of playing professional basketball.
Women’s basketball forward; first ever in program history to record 1,000 points and 1,000 career rebounds; all-time leading rebounder in Patriot League history; named the Patriot League Player of the Week twice during the ’20-21 season; named to the Patriot League Preseason All-League Team, All-League First Team and All-Defensive Team; named Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year during the ‘20-21 season
(RCN broadcaster Gary Laubach covered Kucowski’s athletic achievements in a recent blog.)
Peer Mentor, guiding and assisting first-year student-athletes in adjusting to the rigors of college life while participating in intercollegiate athletics
During a normal (non-COVID) year, it was class all day with peer mentoring and peer mentor meetings throughout the day, plus labs in the afternoon and then trying to squeeze more into any free time that I have. Then right after class, it was to the gym, which was either lifting before practice, or extra workouts and shooting before practice. After practice, I’d typically spend the rest of the night at Acopian (Engineering Center) to finish whatever assignments I had to do for the next day or to get ahead of work. During the pandemic, some of that routine has changed, but it’s still a busy day and you always find a way to get it done. During basketball season, I was focusing on athletics probably about four hours a day.
Having a group of friends within my major outside of basketball helps me find balance. Athletics obviously takes up so much of my time and so much mental space. So, it helps having a group of people where you can just get a change of pace or talk about different things. Also, talking to my family and catching up on things going on at home really helps, as well as just finding time by myself to just reset, refocus, do little things that I like.
The chemical engineering professors are really supportive of their students, beyond academics. In a way, they’re invested in supporting me in my athletic journey too, and congratulating me on my success, staying aware of awards that I’ve won or records that I’ve broken, and congratulating me on that when they see me in the hallway. So that’s just really refreshing to know that they show support in that way. Over these past four years, each of my coaches has taught me something or has inspired me. Whether that’s teaching me confidence, positivity, self-accountability, or just to be myself, they’ve all impacted me in a different way.
My time at Lafayette has taught me patience and has allowed me to grow into the person I am. Here, I was focused on building relationships and learning and growing from them. I was also challenged here in both athletics and academics, and learned and grew from that. I also became more independent and more confident in myself, which I think is going to really help me in the future.
“No challenge, no change.” Challenges, obstacles and things you struggle with make you stronger, and they give you opportunities to learn and grow. They also give you opportunities to gain some perspective and be grateful for things that you have.