Bradley women’s basketball head coach Andrea Gorski was at a restaurant with her daughter in Jacksonville, Florida when she received the good news. After a season that was anything but conventional, it was the kind of news that Gorski needed to hear.
Immediately, it became information that Gorski had to share. Since November, her phone had been pinging constantly with people wanting to know the answer:
Would Gabi Haack come back?
“Gabi FaceTimed me and I jumped up and all the people [were] looking at me like I’m crazy, but I didn’t care,” Gorski said.
Much to the delight of everybody involved with the program — players, coaches and a fanbase as fervent as ever after the Braves’ first-ever run to the postseason last month — Gabi Haack will be returning for her fifth season on the Hilltop this fall.
“Coach Gorski has told me personally multiple times how much she believes in me and cares for me,” Haack said. “That was just something [where] I’m like, ‘You know what, I want to be here, and I want to play for her another year.’”
Haack’s decision was made possible by the NCAA ruling in October that all winter sport athletes could return for an extra season of eligibility. The groundwork was laid, but it wasn’t an easy decision for Haack to make.
She planned on returning to Bradley for an extra semester in the fall to finish her degree regardless. An elementary education major, she would use the semester to student-teach while watching the Bradley program from a different lens, an outside perspective.
The notion of not playing basketball while in Peoria drew a visible reaction from Haack and Gorski. As it stands, Haack is ranked second in scoring in Bradley history.
“I never wanted Gabi, who’s going to go down as the best — or one of the best for sure — basketball players ever to play at Bradley, to have her last year [in the COVID-19 impacted season],” Gorski said. “It’s just.. everything was different.”
It won’t be easy for Haack to balance student-teaching and competing for a second consecutive Missouri Valley Conference title, but it’s a challenge Haack and the Braves will welcome.
“I don’t know how common it is to be playing Division-I sport and student-teach at the same time just because the time commitment is a lot,” Haack said.
Haack has had conversations with other athletes who keep busy schedules — including teammate and fellow senior Emily Marsh — but the prospect of time management is nothing new to her. In fact, it’s an area she prides herself in.
“I’ve already spent so many hours in the schools this semester,” Haack said. “I’m in 100-hour placement, 60-hour placement, 40-hour placements and 20-hour placements throughout my whole college experience. So I know how much time it takes to be in the school.”
Since Haack will only be student-teaching in the fall, she won’t have to worry about any additional classwork, which she said will help alleviate extra stress.
“I know what I’m kind of getting myself into,” Haack said. “I just know it’s gonna be a lot more work than anything I’ve ever done … I do have really good time management, and I’m lucky that [Gorski] is willing to [rework the] schedule and the practice times and everything.”
The team’s schedule will feature a wealth of evening practices in the fall in order to help accommodate Haack’s busy schedule.
Gorski, set to enter her sixth season at the helm of Bradley women’s basketball, is excited to welcome Haack back to an environment that will include five freshmen.
“Gabi understands the culture, where the culture has come from her first year,” Gorski said. “To have someone with her experience and her maturity help five freshmen, that’s invaluable.”
Less than a month removed from the 2020-21 season, it might be too early to formulate expectations for Haack’s fifth season in red and white. But, if that FaceTime call was any indication, Bradley fans should keep their expectations high.
“After I got done with our call, I called my dad,” Haack said. “I said, ‘Dad, I have never seen such a pure [joyful] reaction.”