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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Smalls plays big

Smalls leads the Hawks in rebounds and is fourth on the team in points per game. PHOTOS: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/ THE HAWK

Freshman steps up as leader on the court

The St. Joe’s women’s basketball team’s youth has forced them to rely heavily on their freshmen class, and perhaps the leader of that group so far is forward Gabby Smalls.

“She has this fearlessness,” junior guard and captain Mary Sheehan said. “Every loose ball and every rebound she thinks is hers and makes it hers. She is not afraid of any moment or any player.”

Smalls had no time to worry about a moment being too big. She was thrust into a big role early in the season and has made the most of her opportunity. She currently leads the team in rebounds, with 26 more than any other player on the team. She’s also third in total points. Smalls attributed her productive start to her career to the culture of the St. Joe’s women’s basketball program.

“I had to work towards it,” Smalls said. “You have to earn your spot here, everybody’s fighting for a position.”

The competitive atmosphere at St. Joe’s matches up well with the mentality that Smalls brings to the court each day.

“She has a lot of confidence, intensity and this level of aggression and passion that I don’t think I’ve ever played with before,” Sheehan said.

This competitive edge may be sort of hereditary for Smalls. Her father played in the NFL and for the Philadelphia Eagles for seven years. Competing athletically at such a high level was nothing new for Smalls.

“I’m so used to stuff like this,” Smalls said about the transition. “I was prepared. My dad really prepared me for this.” Smalls said that sort of upbringing helped ease her transition from the high school game to the Division I level.

“It actually did [help],” Smalls said. “It boosted my confidence to want to work hard just like he did to make it all the way. Growing up with a dad that played in the NFL, it was a lot because he expected a lot from me. As the oldest, I had to be the ex- ample for my younger brothers. My dad put a lot of effort and work to help me get here today.”

One person who is undoubtedly grateful for the work that Smalls’ and her father put in is Head Coach Cindy Griffin.

“She has this sort of determination about her that was able to let her come in and make an impact from day one,” Griffin said. “But there’s also this composure about her on the court that brings a sense of calmness to the team which is so valuable.”

Griffin said that from the second Smalls stepped on campus, Griffin could tell that she had the potential to make waves as a freshman. “We saw her work ethic throughout the summer and knew she would be someone we could count on,” Griffin said. “Just how hard she worked leading up the season helped her make that transition smoothly, and now she’s such a huge part of our offense and what we’re trying to accomplish on the court.”

For Smalls, the numbers she is putting up now are a step towards a much larger goal and part of a journey she seems to have thoroughly planned out.

“I want to play in the WNBA,” Smalls said. “First playing overseas and then entering the draft to play in the WNBA, that’s my ultimate goal. Everything’s been going pretty well so far.”

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