Although she has only played a handful of home games in her first varsity season, Brianna Gottschall has many fond memories of Coach ‘K’ Court at St. F.X.’s Oland Centre.
“It is really cool to be able to play on the court, where you can point out the spot where you learned your first crossover [dribble], where you learned how to shoot the ball,” the St. F.X. X-Women forward said, reflecting on her days with the Antigonish Minor Basketball Association (AMBA).
Gottschall described playing for her hometown team, one she has watched since childhood, as “really surreal.”
“It is nice to be able to look out into the audience and see my family and friends; people that I have played with, and coaches I have played for,” the Antigonish native said.
Gottschall laughed and nodded, when asked if she was a ‘gym rat.’
“I am, for sure. I get in there as much as I can to work on things,” she said.
Not surprisingly, that’s where Lee Anna Osei first saw Gottschall.
“I am coming in and everybody has a blank slate,” the first-year X-Women head coach recalled of their initial conversation.
Osei knew the 20-year-old had made the team in 2017, but decided to leave the program.
“I told her, in terms of what happened in the past, I can’t speak on that but, if you make a decision to try out for the team, you will be given a fair shake, like anyone else,” she said.
They spent a lot of the summer together – not only on the court, but also on the track and in the weight room.
“I think her dedication to want to work on her craft, especially in this off-season, really made a huge different. She is a worker,” Osei said.
She noted this will be a “growing year” for Gottschall.
“Brianna is one of our more dynamic players. She is not a true freshman, in the sense of time on the floor. It is very good to see that things are paying off for her, in the short term,” Osei said.
“I think – big picture – she is somebody who can step out and really hit shots and extend the ‘D,’ which we need on our team. We don’t have that many players with the ability to shoot it.”
She noted the Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional Royals’ product hadn’t played a game in two years.
“It is a big jump,” Osei said of the move to university basketball.
She also talked about Gottschall’s versatility, including not only the ability to play on the perimeter, but also in the post.
“I am confident that, if she continues to develop – we get her foot speed quicker – she will be able to do a few things, off the dribble, that, again, will open up the floor not just for herself, but for her teammates,” Osei said.
She added Gottschall is “one of our most mentally tough kids.”
“She has a very unfazed look about her. On the flipside of that – the poise is one thing – but we want to see emotion [come] out of her. We want to see that competitive fire,” Osei said.
‘Just getting better’
Gottschall is focussed on “just getting better,” when it comes to her skills, including playing off-the-dribble and improving her quickness.
“I have usually played inside. I have to work at being more dynamic and pushing myself outside, getting out of my comfort zone,” she added.
When asked about the biggest adjustment to the varsity level, she talked about game speed.
“Everything is a lot faster. You have to be a lot quicker with your movements and getting up and down the court,” Gottschall said.
“You have to be in a lot better shape. It was, kind of, a big curve getting over that bump, at the beginning, to just get myself in shape and ready to go.”
A sophomore in the Bachelor of Arts and Science in Health program, she is one of seven new faces, including six freshman, on the rebuilding X-Women.
“We have bonded. We are really close,” Gottschall said, noting Osei is “really good at getting us together.”
“There are no conflicts. We are working well together. We are pushing each other and we hold each other accountable, which is all part of becoming a better team,” she added.
Gottschall is optimistic about the progress the X-Women have made.
“We are improving every day and we have been learning a lot in practices,” she said.
The X-Women, who have wrapped up their pre-Christmas conference schedule, will return to the court, from Dec. 30 to Jan. 1, when they tip-off in the Dyrick McDermott Invitational at Mount Saint Vincent University.
The Blue and White will resume AUS action Friday, Jan. 4, when they visit the Saint Mary’s Huskies in Halifax.
St. F.X.’s first home game of 2019 is set for Wednesday, Jan. 9, when they host the Dalhousie Tigers on Coach ‘K’ Court at Oland Centre.
Game time is 6 p.m.