Woodstock North’s Caylin Stevens commits to Tiffin University as 2-sport athlete

Thunder senior to play basketball, softball with NCAA Division II Dragons

Woodstock North’s Caylin Stevens drives to the basket in front of Marengo's Dayna Carr during a Kishwaukee River Conference girls basketball game Monday, Jan. 29, 2024, at Woodstock North High School.

Woodstock North’s Caylin Stevens always dreamed of playing softball at the next level, but the thought of doing the same in basketball never crossed her mind.

Until this year.

Stevens, a three-sport athlete at North, unexpectedly found a new love for basketball. So much so that she decided she wanted to pursue it in college.

Stevens stayed persistent and found a school willing to allow her to do both. On Monday, the Thunder senior announced her commitment to play softball and basketball at NCAA Division II Tiffin University in Tiffin, Ohio.

She’ll be a two-sport athlete with the Dragons and study forensic science.

Stevens’ first love is softball, when she started playing at 4 years old with her older sister, Liberty. But she only started to take basketball seriously going into her last year of high school.

“Over the summer when we had summer ball is when I started to flip a switch,” said Stevens, who also plays volleyball in the fall. “I was taking everything seriously, I was practicing over summer consistently. I would go out with my friends and play basketball at the park.

“When the season hit, I was having some good games, and I was like, ‘OK, maybe I’m underestimating myself here.’ I feel like something clicked. I don’t know, I just grew to love it.”

Caylin Stevens, Woodstock North

Stevens, who plays guard in basketball and outfield in softball, chose Tiffin over Wisconsin-Platteville, which was recruiting her for only softball.

She went to two softball camps at Tiffin and fell in love with the school. Later on, she reached out to Tiffin’s basketball coach.

At that time, the softball coach was not aware of Stevens’ interest in playing both sports. But to Stevens’ delight, the coaches agreed that she could do both. She last visited the Great Midwest Athletic Conference school March 15.

“They were both on board and willing to help,” Stevens said. “I was extremely grateful.”

Woodstock North girls basketball coach Jay Justice noticed a difference in Stevens this season and could tell that she was putting more time into her craft.

“Her work ethic is off the charts,” Justice said. “She thinks very seriously at getting better at whatever she’s doing. And honestly for basketball, if you would have told me that she was going to commit somewhere at the start of the year, I probably wouldn’t have believed it.”

“She’s definitely a lead by example type of kid. Nobody is going to outwork her.”

—  Jay Justice, Woodstock North girls basketball coach on senior Caylin Stevens

Justice said the growth Stevens showed from junior to senior year was significant. Over the final 14 games, Stevens averaged 16.9 points a game. Justice felt Stevens’ strong second half put her in contention for Kishwaukee River Conference Player of the Year.

On the season, she averaged a team-high 10.8 points and 5.4 rebounds a game.

“Honestly, I have not coached a player that has developed so much within the span of one season before,” Justice said. “She worked extremely hard every practice to get better. And she really leaned into what we were teaching. She turned herself into an outstanding player.

“She worked hard to get more reps shooting the ball. She turned into a very good 3-point shooter, as well as learning how to finish around the rim. Last year, she struggled at times – she was a little bit out of control going to the basket, throwing some shots up that we didn’t love. We ended up leaning on her heavily.”

In addition to playing three sports, she is enrolled in McHenry County College’s dual-degree program, which allows students to receive college course credits. She already has the number necessary for her associate degree.

Stevens said she had a down year in softball last season, which slowed the recruitment process. As a sophomore, she hit .474 with 15 extra-base hits and 25 steals. So far this spring, the Thunder are 3-3.

She plays travel softball with the Grant Dawgs in Fox Lake.

“It’s definitely a lot,” Stevens said. “I have about three periods off during the school day, and I take some harder classes. I use those a lot to get caught up on school work. And I take my MCC classes in the morning. All of my professors have assignments open early, so I like to get ahead on those.”

Justice isn’t surprised by Stevens’ success.

“She’s definitely a lead-by-example type of kid,” Justice said. “Nobody is going to outwork her. She takes things very seriously and gives her best effort 100% of the time. She’s vocal when she needs to be. I think when she speaks, people listen because they really respect her.”

Stevens said she is looking forward to something new.

“I’m really excited to make new connections and find a roommate,” Stevens said. “I love all my friends here, l love all my school friends. I’m just excited to start a new chapter.”