Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3)
If there’s something Casey Harter can’t do, she will work at it until she can.
That was the trait, above even the elite-tier defense, the seemingly undraining well of energy or the motor that apparently never red-lined that Souderton coach Lynn Carroll knew would set Harter apart. It was just a matter of coaches at the next level seeing it in the rising senior the way Carroll did.
That revelation finally arrived this spring and after a quick recruitment that didn’t take long for both parties to see they were built for each other, Harter committed to play in the Big Ten at Northwestern on June 22.
“They were the most recent school to start talking to me, so it’s only been since the end of April but it’s been awesome,” Harter said. “I was able to have phone calls with all of the staff, they’re amazing and I think we really just connected. I’m just excited about the opportunity.”
Souderton 2023 guard Casey Harter is committed to Northwestern. (Photo: Courtesy)
From the start of her sophomore year to the end of last winter’s first-round state playoff exit, Harter had started to put herself on the college map and had earned a few offers from Division I programs. Once April hit and she got back on the tournament circuit with her Comets AAU national team, the floodgates just opened as programs from all manner of conferences across the country started reaching out to Harter and her coaches.
The influx of attention was both welcome and gratifying for Carroll, who felt that Harter had long been under-recruited before this most recent AAU season began. As much as she was elated to see the rising senior finally get her due, there were some moments the Souderton coach had to take stock of it all as well.
“(Stanford coach) Tara VanDerveer called me, the winningest coach in NCAA history called my cell phone to talk about her,” Carroll said. “She left an impression. She was getting a lot of text messages and phone calls and it just kept growing, every live period, these Division I coaches were trying to show their worth and why she should come there.”
Among them was Northwestern. Harter said the Wildcats were one of the most recent teams to have started recruiting her, only being initially contacted by the Big Ten program after the first live period of the year in April.
The entire process was much quicker than Harter expected, but between Northwestern’s pedigree as a basketball program and as a university, there was a lot to like. Harter and her family went for a visit two weekends ago and the final sell was pretty easy from there.
“I felt like I really connected with the players and got to spend a lot of time with all the coaches, talked to them face-to-face and I could feel the family culture of the program and the university as a whole,” Harter said. “It’s right on Lake Michigan, it’s really beautiful there and I felt like I could really see myself there and that it just felt right. We came back from the official (visit) and thought I would need a few days to reflect but I only really needed a day or two to realize Northwestern was the place I wanted to be.”
Harter — a 5-foot-11 point guard — comes from a basketball background. Her dad Mark played at Kutztown and her mom Angela played at Cornell and driveway games are still a common occurrence at the Harter house. The goal of playing Division I basketball was an early dream for Casey.
It was around the time she tried out for the Comets and then made their GUAA national team in the summer between eighth and ninth grade that the dream started to seem like an attainable goal. To get there, Harter committed to the work whether it was racking up miles running to improve her conditioning, working with her trainer Tina Bastardi to improve her offensive game or building strength at Relentless Athletics, she kept getting better.
“If there’s something she’s not comfortable with, then that’s what she works on and I know it’s already happening going into her senior year with us,” Carroll said. “She’s so competitive, she loves basketball and any success she has had, it was all about how hard she was willing to work and she has earned every bit of it.”
Under head coach Joe McKeown, a Philadelphia native and Hall of Famer at Father Judge, the Wildcats are built to play defense.
McKeown, who has been at the helm of Northwestern since 2008, has built the Wildcats into a consistent performer in the always-rugged Big Ten thanks to a usually stout defense that features plenty of size. While the Wildcats have garnered a reputation for strong post play in recent years, as a former point guard, McKeown also values good perimeter defenders and that’s what drew him and his staff to Harter.
Harter chose Northwestern over a who’s who of suitors that included Providence, Harvard, Loyola-Maryland and Charleston at the top of her list. She added the Northwestern coaches envision her as a combo guard who can run some point but also factor off the ball on top of her ability to guard all manner of wing players.
“They’re a defensive-minded program, Coach McKeown loves defense, and I feel that’s one thing I’m really good at and take pride in,” Harter said. “I think they could see that and knew that. They have a defensive identity they think I would fit really well into.
“Me being more versatile, being able to play the point guard position but also being able to be moved to a wing, it was a combination of all of it. I felt it and they felt it.”
Souderton has made states twice in Harter’s three seasons with the program — the only outlier being the Covid-altered 2020-21 campaign — but she has yet to win a game in the PIAA tournament. With the entire roster back from last year’s SOL Colonial division champion and District 1-6A fourth-place finisher, a state playoff run is the goal for this coming winter.
The senior-to-be is continuing to work on her jumper this summer trying to hone the 3-point shot she started taking more last season and adding more mid-range game.
“I’m going to keep lifting and getting stronger, I know a lot of the girls at Souderton are lifting, running and staying active, especially in AAU, so we’re all pretty focused on getting better for next season,” Harter said. “We want to go on that state championship run, so we’re all working to get there.”
Carroll was pretty adamant in stating that Harter is far from done growing as a player and is extremely excited to see what’s to come at the next level. At the same time, the Souderton coach can also selfishly say she’s grateful they get one more season together.
“When you watch Casey play basketball, it’s not a hustle play here or there, it just never stops,” Carroll said. “Her motor, her level of fitness, all of it, she’s the total package because it’s who she is. This isn’t going to change what we’ve been very lucky to have with her out on the court.”