The overnight and the daylight hours that led up to it can’t be overestimated.

When Winona Cotter 2017 graduate Gabby Bowlin reflects on her 24-hour recruiting visit to Gustavus Adolphus College the spring of her senior year, it’s with fondness.

It’s also with the knowledge that it made a large difference in her saying yes to Gustavus coach Laurie Kelly and her Division III women’s basketball program.

She’d been debating committing to Gustavus or fellow Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference school and basketball power University of St. Thomas, which was also hotly recruiting her.

But Bowlin was won over by the Gusties. The entire Gustavus team was involved on that visit, as Bowlin says is customary in that program. Bowlin, who has been a two-year starting guard at Gustavus, was looking for a genuine feel for what life would be like on the campus and on this team.

That recruiting visit, she says, gave it to her. Now three years into her time at Gustavus, Bowlin reflects that not a speck of pretend was going on there with Kelly, her players or the lives they led. She’s been living exactly what she watched since becoming a part of things in August of 2017.

“I could feel the team aspect of being around them and how much of a family they were,” said Bowlin, who first started to hear from Gustavus and St. Thomas as a high school junior. “They were always doing things together with me when I was there for my recruiting visit. That made things really fun. That showed me exactly what they do there.”

Included in that 24-hour stretch were five-on-five pickup basketball games together, board games and multiple trips to the cafeteria.

The latter didn’t hurt the Gusties’ cause, as Bowlin points out the fine dining that happens at the school. Neither did the basketball.

“I was intimidated in that pickup game, and I didn’t do very well,” said Bowlin, who was also recruited to play softball but turned that down. “I realized then how crazy fast the game is at the college level compared to high school. But they made it fun.”


Kelly’s presence and persona went a long way, too. The Rochester John Marshall and St. Thomas graduate won Bowlin over with her energy.

“The very first time that I met with Coach Kelly, I was struck by her energy and passion, and that sparked me,” Bowlin said. “How much she loved the community at Gustavus, that really (impressed) me.”

Also in Kelly’s favor when it came to Bowlin, who was four times all-conference in basketball at Cotter, was that she promised her nothing. At least not when it came to basketball and her potential future role.

That was exactly as Bowlin wanted it.

“She told me that I was going to have to work hard for my spot,” Bowlin said.

Many of the same things applied to St. Thomas coach Ruth Sinn, who made a similarly dynamic impression on Bowlin’s father, longtime Winona Cotter head girls basketball and softball coach Pat Bowlin.

“Both coaching staffs did a great job; I thought it was a tie there,” Pat said. “Each did a really nice job of recruiting her. But for Gabby, I think it was a ‘feel’ thing. I could sense that when we left the Gustavus campus that she really liked it and liked (St. Peter). The town made a big difference. Some people want a big-city feel, and some don’t.”

Gabby didn’t, and there have been no regrets. Kelly has had a lot to do with that.

“Coach Kelly is passionate about the game,” Gabby said. “But the biggest thing about her is that she cares about her players on and off the floor. She is like our mom at college. She cares about our classes, our social life, our families. She’s just really enjoyable to be around.”

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TODAY — Recruited and Playing. Athletes who have gone through the recruiting process and are playing college sports: Gabby Bowlin, Josh Navratil, Taylor Heise, Mason Tapp, Nadia Lowery, Thomas Bruss.

July 15 — Recruiting at Junior Colleges: What challenges do JuCo coaches face in the recruiting process? Why do athletes choose the JuCo route? What role do academic advisors play?

July 16 — Coaches perspective: Coaches at different levels talk about their recruiting philosophies and practices.

July 17 — Recruited and Waiting: We talk to athletes who have made college commitments but have yet to arrive on campus. How are they handling this period of waiting and wondering might happen to their first semester of college?

July 18 — Technology and Social Media: How has social media changed recruiting for coaches and athletes?

July 19 — A Different Animal: Junior Hockey. Men’s hockey is unique to this process in that there is a middle ground between high school and college that most players must pass through.

July 20 — Recruiting Targets: Current high school athletes tell us what their recruiting experiences have been like so far, and how they plan to handle the rest of the process.

July 21 — Borderline Decisions: How does an athlete decide between playing for a Division I school or a Division II or Division III school? Or going to junior college?

July 22 — Two-Sport College Athletes: What is the recruiting process like for athletes who want to play more than one sport in college?

July 23 — Evolution of Recruiting: We talk to athletes from five decades to find out what their recruiting experience was like and how it has changed over the years.