If Eastern Commerce Saints are to repeat as city women’s 4A basketball champs, it likely will be on the shoulders of Tayla Gibb.
The team’s oldest and tallest player is one of a handful of returners from last year’s squad, and it’s her experiences both off the court and on that are a key to Gibb’s performance.
“I guess you could say my Grade 9 and 10 years weren’t the greatest, I didn’t get most credits while going to an alternative school outside Eastern,” Gibb said, while taking a break during a pick-up game at Eastern Commerce on Tuesday.
“It was really hard because in Grade 9 I didn’t have the greatest home life and then in Grade 10 I got put into foster care.”
Gibb was living in Pickering at the time and making the trip into the city every day for 7:30 a.m. practice while staying at school until 7:30 at night.
“They were long days but it was really worth it in the end because now I’m going to get to go university in the States, for sure,” she said. “The regimen here let me get the other aspects of my life on track, it’s helped me structure my life properly.”
The free scholarship Gibb is aiming for would be a testament to the long hours she has put in.
Her coach at EC, Kareem Griffin, believes her off-court experiences have helped mold Gibb into the person she is today.
“She’s been in a lot of situations and she’s done a lot of great things in her development over the last couple of years, it’s been phenomenal.” Griffin said. “She’s kind of one of those old souls, where her maturity level by far exceeds high school.”
Gibb is longest serving Saint as she enters her third season.
“It’s really always been my personality to always kind of be the mother hen,” said Gibb. “When I was younger I used to take care of my younger brother a lot and that was just something I enjoyed doing.”
Griffin lauds his captain’s leadership and outspoken nature.
“If we’re going to get it done and win it’s going to be based off of her, she’s going to make it happen for us.”
Eastern Commerce basketball has become known for winning. Despite enrolling only roughly 350 students the school won both girls and boys 4A city championships last season.
Gibb will have to be on her “A” game for a team that lost some tremendous talent. They see cohesive play as a key to success this upcoming year if they want to repeat.
The team’s assistant, and strength and conditioning coach, Tevya Reid thinks Gibb is always continuing to make strides and improve on the court.
“She’s a very hard working smart player, who knows how to use her size and is getting better at it actually,” he said.
“She’s started developing more of a mid-range game which I think will be huge for her game because now she will be able to play more than under the basket. If we had more players like her we’d be better for it.”
A big factor in how well the squad this year is gaining a feel for the other players on the team.
“I think we just have to build our team chemistry more, it’s a new team so we just need to learn how to work with each other,” Gibb said. “We have a lot of raw talent so we just need to get used to playing together.”
The season starts Sept. 22 with a tournament, but Gibb knows what she’s looking forward.
“I want to win OFSAA (provincial) gold. That’s my only expectation for the team.”