The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

June 4, 2014

Backyard to BW

PV star Gabriel will play at the next level

When Pymatuning Valley graduate Geena Gabriel and her teammate and cousin, Kelsea Brown, were growing up, they took to shooting baskets in the backyard in order to pass the time.

Nearly a decade later, Gabriel will be playing the sport on the collegiate level as she attends Baldwin-Wallace University in the fall.  

“We were just playing in the backyard,” the daughter of Bruce and Shelley Gabriel said. “We didn’t think about any of it. We were just having fun.”

Gabriel, a 3-sport star for the Lakers chose basketball over soccer and track.

“At first, soccer was what I loved,” Gabriel said. “That’s what I wanted to play (in college). Then I played in high school and, knowing everything I do now, I chose to play basketball over soccer.

“I’m definitely excited to go play basketball. I’m ready to start right now.”

That isn’t to say Gabriel didn’t entertain the idea of hanging up her sneakers.

“In the beginning, it was kind of sketchy whether I’d play or not,” Gabriel said. “Half of me wanted to go to college, get my degree and be done. Not having sports in my life would have sucked. I’ve done it through high school, so I should be able to do it through college.”

There was a short list Gabriel considered as far as schools she wanted to attend. Baldwin-Wallace won out.

“Mount Union, BW and Point Park University (Pittsburgh) were my main three,” Gabriel said. “I visited Mount Union and BW. When I visited BW, I knew it was the school for me.”

Part of the draw BW has for Gabriel is the school is just outside Cleveland. She wanted to trade the night sounds of crickets for the sounds of passing cars.

“I was looking at Mount Union and it’s not really in the country, but it’s not really in the city,” she said. “I’ve lived my whole life out in the country. I wanted something different. I knew Baldwin-Wallace was 20 minutes outside of Cleveland. That made my choice for me.”

Gabriel will major in exercise science, where she will either become a teacher and coach or find another way to stay connected to sports.

“I might move to strength and conditioning or injury prevention,” she said. “I was lucky, knock on wood, I didn’t have any injuries, but I saw girls who did and it sucked for them. I want to help others.”

Gabriel’s coach at PV, Jeff Compan, has long maintained she would make an excellent coach. She is definitely considering her coach’s words.

“I’ve always kind of known I learn differently,” she said. “To teach me, I have to go through something. It’s something some coaches don’t understand. I’m good at helping others to understand.

“What (Compan) has taught me, I want to pass down and help others become great players.”

A point guard for Compan at PV, Gabriel will begin her career at BW in the same role. But her coach has designs on that role changing over time.

“At first, she told me she wanted me to start as a point guard,” Gabriel said. “Then, she wants to move me to more of a shooting or driving guard and have somebody else be the point guard.”

Though she loved her role in running the Lakers’ offense, Gabriel will have little trouble evolving as a player into a new role.

“I’ve played point guard since I was a little girl,” she said. “I love being in charge, but I think it’s best not to be the point guard and have somebody else do it.

“I like being the point guard, but at the same time, it’s a lot of stress on your shoulders to run up the court, run the ball up and find the open person. (Switching), there’s not a lot of stress on me other than getting open and someone dishing to me. I’ll have some better opportunities than I would sticking with playing point guard.”

Being one of just a trio of 1,000-point scorers in the PV program’s history, Gabriel has some lofty goals for her career at BW.

“In the short term, I just want to have a good season with my teammates and do what I’ve done in high school and have a winning record,” she said. “I do want to score 1,000 points again. That’s something to look forward to because it’s hard to do in college.

“I just want to have a great 4 years at BW, make sure I make the right decisions academically and make my family proud.”

Compan has put Gabriel in position to chase those dreams.

“I feel like he put his best foot forward for me,” she said. “He pushed me to my limits. He prepared me in every single way. I feel I’m definitely ready for the college level.”

And of course, that family she hopes to make proud has been a great system of support.

“It’s great to know I have their support,” Gabriel said. “They’ve always strived for the best for me.

“It’s great to know I have them behind my back.”      

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.

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