Positive, perpetual, and progressing.
The hardest adjustment for a freshman collegiate athlete is adapting. Whether it’s to the new atmosphere on a collegiate court, adjusting mechanics to please a new coach, or developing a greater confidence to play at the Division I level.
To nearly all freshmen student-athletes, college has a bit of shock value, but how quickly one adjusts to the different climate can determine whether or not they get a good head start to their careers. Some athletes begin slow and don’t blossom until late, while others hit the ground running. Sophomore Mary Gedaka is the latter. It also helped that she got some guidance on what it would take.
Her mother, Lisa, also went to Villanova and played for longtime head coach Harry Perretta from 1983-87. She topped off her career on the Main Line with the Big East Player of the Year title in 1987. Her mother has given her some insight and advice, allowing Gedaka to come in knowing what a tough coach like Perretta expects from his players. After all, they went through many of the same things and while her mom enjoyed a solid career, she’s trying to carve out her own identity and make a name for herself.
”I come into each game with a positive outlook on every situation,” said Gedaka, about her approach to the court.
A standout at Gloucester Catholic (N.J.), Gedaka had a decorated high school career before coming to Villanova. She was a three-time South Jersey player of the year, three-time All-State honoree, and led the team to three-straight appearances in the South Jersey Non-Public A finals. All in all, she scored over 1,900 career points and had over 1,000 rebounds. She was also a Honor Roll student, allowing her to choose her perfect fit of a school with great academics and athletics—Villanova.
Fast forward to her sophomore year, she has been known for her consistency, coming off the bench with an ability to perform well with each game. In fact, it was this same trait that attracted Perretta to recruit Gedaka to play for him at Villanova.
She came to the Main Line and in her freshman year, Gedaka played in all 35 games and averaged 14.1 minutes per game and just over five points per game while shooting 51.0 percent from the field. While a reserve on the bench in her first season, she’s taken her game to new heights as a sophomore.
Gedaka enjoyed a breakout performance in a December game against providence, where she proved her potential in best filling the “sixth woman” slot. Gedaka finished off 2017 with a bang and led Villanova as she scored 24 points in a comeback effort to spur the ‘Cats to victory. She was untouchable, as she made layup after layup whenever called to sub in.
”Whoever I’m subbing for, I come onto the court with the mindset that I have to best fill the role of my teammate,” Gedaka said. “I ask myself, what do I need to do to produce the most points possible and to fill right in, as our starters do.”
That was only the beginning, as she finished out the regular season hitting the double digit mark in 12 of the last 14 games.
“I’m more confident in my shot this year, I have no doubt in taking the ball myself,” Gedaka said.
After watching the manner in which Gedaka rushes onto the court with such a positive, fearless energy—it’s clear her success is no accident. One can tell she has a better understanding of how everyone plays, now that she has had that previous year of experience under her belt.
“I believe I provide a spark as a sixth woman this year, by simply bringing a positive attitude and an energy to the court,” Gedaka said. “I play with the mindset in trusting what I’ve trained for.”
While it might be a simplistic approach, one that doesn’t require a lucky ritual, a bit of superstition before a game, or a habit in the practice gym—it’s working, and it wasn’t long before the team started noticing. Then, eventually, the rest of the conference.
“The change I’ve seen from last year to this year in Mary is her shooting,” Perretta said. “She’s shooting the ball phenomenally, and I believe it has to do with her being more confident and comfortable all-around.”
Even though she’s not starting, that doesn’t stop Gedaka from making an impact and thriving in that sixth role. What many of Gedaka’s teammates admire of her, is that she doesn’t let the idea of “not being a starter” get to her head. She aims to be a great teammate—one that is coachable, does exactly what she is told, and gets the job done.
While a Big East Sixth Woman of the Year Award is a nice accomplishment, she has her eyes set on even greater goals.
“I just want to have fun playing at the D1 level, with the mindset that every game can be my last,” Gedaka said. “In the end, my most important goal is giving back to the game that brought me to where I’m at. I want the Big East title, for the team. We all want it, and this year there’s a vision there.”
The Lady ‘Cats will head to Chicago this weekend for the next step in completing that mission. The Big East Women’s Basketball Tournament will tip off on Saturday, but the Wildcats won’t hit the floor until Sunday night.
While there’s a lot of buzz surrounding DePaul and Marquette and many expect the race to the finish line to be between the both of them, Gedaka and the rest of the Wildcats have something to say about that. The first part of their statement will be against the sixth-seeded Georgetown Hoyas, and then who knows from there.