Caitlin Hose and Jenna Staiti have a unique relationship as roommates. They’re admittedly the same person and have rituals that their Georgia teammates don’t seem too fond of. That is until the rest of the Lady Bulldogs want to suddenly join in on their fun.
They’re always trying to find an escape from basketball, and do so in a variety of ways: telling jokes, watching NBA games (maybe that counts) or co-hosting Instagram Live chats from the same room to where there’s an audible humming noise due to being in close proximity to each other. Their latest venture is playing “Fortnite,” a battle royale video game that has taken America by storm — maybe because it’s free-to-play while other games cost a pretty penny.
After once saying “oh, that’s so stupid,” as Staiti recalled, a number of the Lady Bulldogs suddenly started to partake in the gaming action inside the team locker room. Stephanie Paul and Maya Caldwell now regularly pick up a controller to join Hose and Staiti.
“They’ll say we’re the weirdest on the team, and it’s so funny,” Staiti said. “We’ll make jokes and they don’t think it’s funny, but then they’ll be making fun of us and bring up our jokes. We’ll hear it out there at practice.”
This pairing of these roommates created the best-possible scenario. Hose and Staiti (a Maryland transfer) are both first-year players trying to master playing in a Joni Taylor-led system, and their similarities off the court make the transition easier. Ironically enough, their emergence toward becoming viable assets for the Lady Bulldogs have come in succession, and maybe that’s a coincidental testament to their closely-developed bond.
Staiti’s hot stretch was evident when Georgia started SEC play as she created a dominant post presence with senior Caliya Robinson. As the regular season concludes, Hose took advantage of her opportunity and establishing her presence as a 3-point marksman.
“She understands which plays give her a good shot, so she can catch-and-shoot,” Georgia point guard Taja Cole said, who is always searching for an open teammate. “It’s an extra assist for me when I have a 3-point threat.”
Hose’s season has been inconsistent in terms of playing time. She had her fair share of minutes with a double-digit total in six-of-seven games to start the season, but was apprehensive offensively as she tried to find her footing. Then, as non-conference play concluded, Hose was sidelined for four games due to a strained plantar fascia and took time to become re-acclimated to the game’s pace.
Her offensive talent as a 3-point shooter, however, was always there. At the conclusion of practices, Georgia runs a free-ranging shooting period and Hose converted on approximately 10 consecutive shots behind-the-arc and found a rhythm. That paid off in the coming games as she received 36 minutes in an overtime loss to Auburn and had eight 3-point attempts.
“I want to be that 3-point spark, and a lot of that is getting in the gym so I can help the team out,” Hose said. “It’s important to have that consistency, because I am a rhythm shooter.”
Hose can do other things of use for Georgia, like the point guard position, and Taylor makes that known. It’s that sharpshooter’s mentality, though, that pushed the Lady Bulldogs to add the three-star prospect out of Hazel Green, Ala.
Georgia carries the fourth-best shooting mark in the SEC at 43 percent, and that includes games in which the team’s offense had immense troubles scoring (35 points in a loss to Missouri serves as the best example). Nevertheless, it’s an improvement from 41 percent last season and Hose’s abilities are proving to be beneficial.
“She was struggling to find her shot, but we never lost confidence in Caitlin,” Staiti said. “We knew it was going to come. It’s great to see her shoot and go in for those crazy moves out there.”
Hose, a former Alabama 6A Player of the Year, hasn’t had more than three conversions like she did against Auburn. In fact, 10 of her performances didn’t include a 3-point make. But as shown by the back-to-back displays against Auburn and Florida (eight points and 2 of 4 from behind-the-line), there are glimpses of potential for the freshman.
“There’s a rush (when you convert) and it gives you confidence to let your next shot fly,” Hose said.
There’s no hesitancy for Hose to admit a need for improvement in every area of her game, but defense can be pinpointed as her biggest weakness. For Georgia, which prides itself upon defense to the point where team t-shirts are made as reminders, there’s also no hesitancy to sideline Hose if it doesn’t improve. It’s a common trend for freshmen who are stars at the high-school level while throwing up shots and thriving on a run-and-gun style.
Georgia’s philosophy is different — a lot different. Taylor has implored that a player’s minutes will be minimized if a physical effort isn’t present defensively. Hose can be a consistent presence if that importance can be realized.
“She has to be better defensively for us for the people we have to play (in the SEC),” Taylor said. “She has to get that feistiness and aggressiveness, and that’ll get her more playing time.”
Hose, along with her roommate Staiti, have potential to be productive players for the Lady Bulldogs and emerge past the status of a role player. They’ll be appreciative of each other’s accomplishments on-the-court, but also enjoy the escape from basketball.
Whether their teammates join in or not, they’ll likely be trying to claim victory on Fortnite.
“That’s me and Caitlin for you,” Staiti said.