Senior Gopher Diva excels in leadership role

Courtesy of Brad Rempel, MN Athletics Hubbard Gadiva

There are approximately 100 African American and other student-athletes of color this school year at the University of Minnesota. In an occasional series throughout the 2020-21 school and sports year, the MSR will highlight many of these players.

This week: Gopher redshirt senior basketball player Gadiva Hubbard

A typical oft-asked question of college seniors: “Can you believe four years have passed?” Fortunately Gadiva Hubbard and this reporter avoided this ritual.

The 5’-9” Virginia Beach, Va. guard and her Gopher teammates this week start Big Ten play. It’s been a long while since COVID-19 knocked out sports in March and caused its current uncertainty as the 2020-21 schedule began last week with two non-conference games at the Barn, played without fans.

“We don’t know the rest of the schedule, [but] we are back on the court. We can’t ask for more than that,” said a relieved Hubbard, who’s affectionately called “Diva.”  

“Mentally it was hard,” she recalled of last spring’s sudden shutdown. “I just came back from a [foot] injury and had to get myself back together to play last year. We stopped right in the middle when I was trying to get back to how I was [before the injury].”

After averaging over 12 points a game her freshman year in 2016-17 and starting 31 of 32 games the following season, Hubbard missed her entire junior season due to injury. She bounced back slowly last season but finished averaging 11 points and led the Gophers in minutes played.

Hubbard also last season became the 26th player in school history to hit 1,000 career points, reaching the milestone in 80 games, 12th quickest in program history.

Courtesy of Brad Rempel, MN Athletics Hubbard Gadiva taking her shot

“I’m a nine, I’m feeling good,” declared Hubbard on her physical health. “I would say my game is probably at 6.5, 7.  I’m not back where I like to be, but I’m definitely working toward getting back to where I was.”

The redshirt senior is the team’s oldest player on a Gopher team that features five froshs and four sophs, including second-year guard Jasmine Powell, who is the team’s top returning scorer from last season.

“She has been doing well,” said Hubbard of the Detroit native, one of five sistahs on the roster, especially her playmaking. “[Powell] passes have been great.”

Once a starry-eyed freshman, Hubbard sees herself now as a well-seasoned veteran. “When I first got to the U, I was told how Division I basketball was so hard and you got to work to earn your time and minutes,” she remembered. “It is hard to win a game, especially in the Big Ten.

“I think now as a leader, I can talk a lot more—I wasn’t very talkative before. I think Coach [Lindsay] Whalen has brought that out of me.”

“Her leadership has been tremendous for us this year,” Whalen said of Hubbard. “She knows the deal, what [is] to be expected, day in day out.”

  “I’m able to talk about what it takes to be a Division I basketball player in the Big Ten,” Hubbard said, “to give little wisdom moments whenever I can.”

She also admitted that perhaps she’s finally gotten past being star-struck playing for Whalen, the third year Gopher HC. 

“I’m still star-gazed on everything she’s done,” Hubbard said of the former Gopher star and four-time WNBA champion. “I walk into her office and I see all her [Olympic] gold medals and [WNBA] rings…  Wow! I didn’t realize how much she actually did.”

Hubbard joked that it seems that she has been at Minnesota longer than the actual five years. “I am in the middle of my masters [in sports management] right now. I will be able to graduate with this one in May [2021],” she said proudly.

About Charles Hallman

Charles Hallman is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at challman@spokesman-recorder.com

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