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Katy Winge '15 interviews Denver Nuggets All-Star Nikola Jokic. Photo credit: Garrett Ellwood

Katy Winge breaks boundaries in the Mile High City

In a March home game, the Denver Nuggets are down by one point with five seconds left to the Dallas Mavericks. Point guard Jamal Murray inbounds the ball a few feet above the three-point line to Nuggets All-Star center Nikola Jokic. Jokic drives toward the basket. He stops and pivots at the free throw line, fakes a quick move to the left before he goes to the right, directly into the defender. The move creates barely enough space for Jokic to get off a leaning, one-handed shot as time expires. The ball falls perfectly through the net for a Nuggets win.

Breaking down the action for Denver fans listening in on Altitude Sports Radio was former Redbird basketball player Katy Winge ‘15, the first female analyst in Nuggets’ history. Winge earned the role after impressing Altitude with a self-produced show called Courtside Countdown during the 2017–2018 season. The station commemorated barrier-breaking promotion with a video package featuring two of Winge’s heroes: Colorado Rockies reporter Jenny Cavnar and basketball play-by-play broadcaster Doris Burke.

“I had no idea (the tribute) was coming. They completely surprised me with this during my first broadcast for Altitude. To be mentioned with two women at that caliber who have accomplished so much respectively in their fields is so humbling,” Winge said.

Winge has been a constant presence for Nuggets faithful throughout the season, which has seen the team rise from scrappy upstarts to the top seed in the NBA’s ultra-competitive Western Conference. Winge wears a lot of different hats for Altitude: sideline reporter, radio color commentator, analyst, and podcaster. Winge attends every game, home and away, and is always looking for new ways to tell the story of Denver Nuggets basketball.

“Every athlete has a story to tell,” she said. “They come from different backgrounds, have different experiences, and all have different purposes for what they are doing and why they are passionate about it. I fell in love with the idea of telling these stories.”

Winge’s eye for stories first developed at Illinois State. Winge was recruited to play basketball and wasn’t sure what she wanted to major at first.

“I did know I was coming to a good school, so it sort of didn’t matter,” she said. “Any degree I got here would be worthwhile and something to put a lot of respect and pride in.”

Winge thought about becoming a sports reporter during her time as a player. Local reporters were producing stories about Winge and her teammates, leading her to wonder what it would be like on their side of the microphone. That interest led her to join TV-10, where she immediately fell in love with broadcasting.

“The second I stepped foot in that program, there was no turning back,” she said.

Today Winge has the privilege of watching world-class athletes up close and get their direct insights on the game. She prides herself on her ability to build relationships with players and present them as their true selves to fans. Winge is not the type of person to become starstruck, but she has felt the gravity of witnessing basketball history while watching Los Angeles Lakers megastar LeBron James make his mark on the game.

Winge is proud of her ability to get players to be themselves and tell their stories. Her eye for stories was first developed at ISU.

“The Nuggets played the Lakers several times in the preseason, so I was there when LeBron James played in a Lakers uniform at the Staples Center for the first time,” she said. “I was there when he passed Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list.”

When pressed on who her favorite Nuggets player to interview is, she talks at length about nearly all of them. Most of her praise falls deservedly to Jokic, who has established himself as a rising star in the league with a unique skill set where he is as happy making a slick pass to a teammate as he is scoring himself.

“I cover Nikola Jokic’s team, so I see a lot of cool basketball things all the time,” she said.

She also speaks highly of the 22-year-old Murray, who she describes as fiercely competitive and confident in his growing abilities. Murray is in many ways a microcosm of the whole team, who only have one major contributor, 34-year-old Paul Millsap, with extensive postseason experience.

The Nuggets are in their first playoff series since 2013 and Winge is looking forward to seeing how far they can go. For casual fans who haven’t watched much Nuggets basketball this year, Winge said they are in for a treat.

“If you are a basketball fan, you will like their style of play,” she said. “They are one of the best passing teams and they move the ball around unselfishly. There are a lot of talented young guys who are starting to come into their own. The playoffs are going to be a lot of fun.”

Tyler Emken can be reached at tkemken@IllinoisState.edu.

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