Sports Person of the Week
Lucertini Loves Everything About Basketball
Gabby Lucertini is excited to be leading the Branford girls’ basketball team as a senior captain during the 2021 winter season. (Photo courtesy of Gabby Lucertini )
Gabby Lucertini fell in love with basketball from the moment that she started playing the sport. Gabby has since gone on to have a nice career with the girls’ basketball squad at Branford High School, becoming a key player for the Hornets and also a team captain as a senior this year.
Gabby had a few sports on her plate while growing up in Branford. Ultimately, basketball was the one that stuck with Gabby and became her passion.
“I was very involved in a lot of athletics. I really wanted to play hockey, but my parents wouldn’t let me. So, it was between soccer or basketball,” says Gabby. “As soon as I started playing, I immediately loved it. I just loved the game.”
Gabby began playing basketball for Branford’s town league as soon as she was eligible. In the 6th grade, she joined the girls’ basketball team at Walsh Intermediate School, as well as the Connecticut Starters AAU program. Gabby’s love for basketball continued to grow throughout middle school as she found that she really enjoyed the competition, as well as the physicality of the sport.
By competing for multiple teams, Gabby learned about the importance of being a good teammate before she even started high school. Gabby says that playing basketball taught her how to be inclusive and a good leader both on and off the court.
“It helped me be very inclusive and a natural leader. I just really loved including people,” Gabby says. “Obviously, you love when you score a basket, but I love supporting my team and others. If somebody did really well, I love that, and I love being proud of my teammates. We all help each other. This works in basketball and in real life.”
Gabby had a decision to make as a freshman at Branford. She had started playing softball at the same time as basketball, but wanted to focus on just one sport in high school. After contemplating her next move, Gabby decided to stick with basketball, because she loved every aspect of the sport.
“I liked basketball, because it was way more physical. You were always doing something. As a kid, I was very bored in softball. The only time I was really excited was going up to bat,” says Gabby. “I just loved playing basketball. I was always doing something. In softball, one person makes a play. In basketball, you need everyone to contribute.”
In her first year at Branford, Gabby was a starter on the JV team and saw sporadic moments of varsity playing time. Initially, Gabby was intimidated playing against seniors as a freshman. However, Emma Pierson and Victoria Raffone, who were seniors on the team, helped Gabby make a smooth transition into the high school ranks, allowing her to feel more comfortable. As the season progressed, Gabby continued leading the JV team, while also gaining a better understanding of how to play at the varsity level, and saw her confidence flourish as a result.
“Having that year in JV really helped me. I was kind of like the leader on the JV team, so it built up my confidence a lot,” Gabby says. “I was able to help guide the girls. Obviously, the competitiveness wasn’t equal to the varsity game, but being that person and that leader made me more confident in the varsity games. People looked up to me on the JV team, and I felt more confident playing at the varsity level, because I was comfortable being a leader on the JV level.”
As she begins her senior season, Gabby is the only returning starter from last year’s squad. In addition to continuing in her starting role, Gabby was named a captain for the Hornets alongside fellow senior Francesca Valletta. Gabby says that earning the title of captain was an honor, especially since she’s been playing basketball with Valletta since the 5th grade and considers Valletta her best friend.
“When I found out I was going to be captain, I was really excited. I was excited to have people to look up to me, and I just wanted to be a great role model,” says Gabby. “We have a lot of freshmen on our team. They’re all going to be really timid, really nervous. I did a lot of team bonding and workouts over the summer. I really wanted them to be comfortable with me. I wanted them to think of me as a mentor. We’re all super comfortable.”
Gabby was more of a shooter when she first joined the Hornets, but didn’t really focus too much on the defensive side of the game. However, she watched how hard Branford’s veteran players worked on defense and admired their effort. Now, Gabby loves playing defense at her guard position and does everything she can to help the Hornets on the defensive end.
Gabby gives a lot of credit to Branford Head Coach Rob Manghnani for helping her grow as both a basketball player and a person throughout the past few years. In her senior season, Gabby wants to be better than she was last year and help the Hornets jell on the court, so they can improve upon their record.
Gabby has signed a letter of intent to play collegiate basketball at Colby- Sawyer College in New London, New Hampshire. Gabby plans in majoring in biology and entering the pre-physical therapy track in order to pursue a career in that field.
Along every step of her basketball journey, Gabby has learned about what it takes be an athlete and a leader. As she heads into her last season at Branford and gets ready to play in college, Gabby is hoping to keep learning how she can be the best version of herself through the sport.
“I grew so much and, now being able to play in college, it’s such a great opportunity for me. I get to meet more people and play at such a higher level,” Gabby says. “I just love that competition and that adrenaline you get from playing. I just want to carry that out of college into my regular life and be an amazing leader, helping others. I want to do everything I can to be a great person on and off the court. I want to be supportive to everybody.”