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Watch her feet and you see the potential. Katie Healy moves smoothly and strongly in the low post, finding her way around the defense. She will step back to create space and release a high-arcing jump shot with some serious hang time before it swishes through the net. Given the opportunity, the freshman can step back even farther, behind the three-point line, making her a difficult matchup for most of the post players she faces.

Her game reminds you of another St. Bonaventure forward who had textbook-perfect footwork, the ability to create for her teammates along with three-point shooting range. Healy could be the next Megan Van Tatenhove, the 2012 graduate who scored more than 1,000 career points with more than 500 rebounds and helped build the Bona program into an NCAA Tournament team.

Watch Healy play and you’d swear you’re seeing the second coming of MVT. And all those similarities? They are not by accident.

“The last four teams we’ve played has said she reminds them of Megan,” Bona head coach Jim Crowley said. “But that’s why we recruited her. Our offense is built through having a player like that.”

But there were plenty of nerves at the beginning of Healy’s freshman year, and understandably so. The Lancaster native signed her national letter of intent in her junior year of high school. Back then, the Bonnies were winning 20 games a year and going to the Women’s NIT.

Already committed to St. Bonaventure, she spent her senior year of high school watching the program have a magical season, going undefeated in the Atlantic 10, earning a Top 25 national ranking and advancing to the NCAA Sweet 16. In her first game in the Reilly Center, she stood at center court with her new teammates as the postseason banners were unveiled.

“That was intimidating, honestly,” Healy said. “I was really excited for them. I went to almost every game that I could [last season]. Just watching that and seeing how they played together I was really excited. I really wanted to get here.

Healy said it was “really cool” to see the banners unfurl.

“It made me want to have that happen to me with my teammates and the other freshmen. Hopefully we can make that happen in the next four years.”

Healy was the Western New York Player of the Year last year after averaging 17.1 points and 9.7 rebounds a game for Lancaster. Before transferring to Lancaster, she played at Sacred Heart and was part of two Monsignor Martin Association championship teams.

Her success in high school came from being the big girl in the low post. What will key her success at St. Bonaventure will be her ability to become versatile, read the game and become a vocal leader.

She has already improved. At the beginning of the season, a few early missed shots often meant an ineffective Healy for the rest of the game. Crowley had a talk with Healy about changing her in-game mentality.

“Coach told me I had to get rid of it. He said you can’t think about the first shot,” Healy said. “He said, 'We can’t look at you as a freshman anymore. You have to play older.’ He basically asked me if I could handle it. I said yes. And now that’s what he expects of me. I think he gave me the confidence to be able to do that.”

With that confidence, Healy has been able to showcase the versatility she has added to her game. Assistant coach Ryan Gensler, who works with the post players, said that Healy is learning the progression of the game and how to make reads off the defense – a skill that is really only developed through game experience.

“She’s learning if the reads are skip passes or when to take it to the basket strong because you have a favorable matchup,” Gensler said. “She wasn’t always sure when to be aggressive and that confidence has grown over the season.

“She came in in really good shape and came in with a really good desire to get better. So I wanted to throw the gamut at her early. I don’t think there’s anything we shied away from because she was already OK with her feet. She was already OK with her jump shot. So I think it was more expanding her jump shot out to the three-point line. Utilizing your pivots and understanding that you’re under control even when you pick up your dribble.”

While her jump shot was OK, stepping out regularly and taking three-pointers in the flow of the offense was a new world for Healy. This season, she is 5 of 14 from three-point range, but an impressive 4 of 9 in Atlantic 10 games. Not bad for a post player who didn’t think she had that range.

“That came this year. I was more of a post player in high school,” Healy said. “I could drive … but I couldn’t really shoot. I had no range. Now, Ryan works with me all the time getting shots up and trying to develop that aspect of my game. I think I almost concentrate more on getting outside shots now in my workouts.”

Healy has started in 11 of the Bonnies’ 24 games this season, including all nine Atlantic 10 games. As she moved into the starting lineup, her numbers, which were solid to start with, got even better. In A-10 play she is averaging 10.9 points and 6.1 rebounds a game and shooting a team-best .482. Add to that 17 steals and eight blocks and she’s building a solid foundation for future success, both for her and a program that is struggling to find wins in its post-NCAA season. The Bonnies are just 9-15 overall and 2-7 in the A-10 heading into Sunday’s game at Butler.

Creating the future includes learning from the past. At the beginning of the season, Gensler had her watch some video of Van Tatenhove. It wasn’t just to watch the moves but to inspire confidence in Healy that she, too, could be a dominant force for the Bonnies and become a leader in the program.

The moves and the game may look similar, and the comparisons are flattering. But Healy would kindly remind you that she is her own player.

“It’s an honor, really,” Healy said. “She was a great player. I think that we do have similar traits but I don’t think I’m quite Megan Van Tatenhove. …

“Early in the year I watched a DVD of her and I mean, I did take notes from it, but I also tried to put my own game into it because we’re not the same player.”

email: amoritz@buffnews.com