An alma mater is a source of pride for many college graduates, and Bradley Women’s Basketball head coach Andrea Gorski is no exception.
The Dearborn, Michigan native was a point guard for the Braves during her college career and was responsible for running the offense on the court. She chose to come to the Hilltop because of a feeling of community amongst peers.
“It was a perfect size where I felt like I could get to know enough people and professors and be able to leave my mark,” Gorski said.
Gorski left that mark on the all-time women’s basketball leaderboard at Bradley, as she finished her career with 980 career points, which is 21st on the all-time scoring list, fourth in career assists, seventh in three-point field goals and eighth in minutes played. In 1996, she was inducted into the Bradley Athletics Hall of Fame.
Since Gorski last took the court, the women’s basketball landscape has changed dramatically. Recruiting, for example, used to be done by going to basketball camps and tips on players from certain high schools.
“That’s how Bradley found me: at an all-star camp in Indiana,” Gorski said. “Recruiting is probably more efficient now than it used to be.”
That’s because the sport is now based on exposure, mostly through the AAU travel circuit.
“Now … you find [players] at a tournament that has 50 games going on in the same facility and then you’ll follow up and go to their high school game a few months later,” Gorski said.
From a player’s standpoint, the players Gorski now coaches have an entirely different college life than she did. Players are now limited to 20 hours of team activity per week, which wasn’t a rule during her playing days.
“If our coach wanted to have us practice and watch film and do all that for 30 hours a week, they could have,” Gorski said. “If we had a bad game and we wanted to get off the bus and practice at midnight, we could have.”
Since those rules have been in place, players have been able to shape their own college life.
“[Players] definitely have more say in what their experience looks like,” Gorski said. “The players really have probably more time now in terms of away from basketball than we did.”
Since Gorski graduated from the Hilltop in 1992, the women’s basketball program at Bradley has seen ups and downs. A 21-win season in 2009 was the high point of a program that rarely finished more than a few games over .500 while she was away. When she came back to her alma mater in 2016, the team had gone through four straight losing seasons and three straight seasons with single-digit win totals.
However, the turnaround under Gorski gained the program more positive exposure through the media. Because of the MVC’s rights deal with ESPN, every game is now televised through ESPN+ or ESPN3. Women’s basketball was rarely televised during Gorski’s playing career.
“I think there’s more attention to women’s basketball now … the caliber of players we have now coming into Division I basketball programs, it’s higher,” Gorski said. “I think people, probably the casual fan, appreciate the women’s game more now than they used to.”
All told, Gorski has used the changing landscape of the sport to help build a winning culture at her alma mater. Now in her fifth season of coaching the Braves, the team is going for a third-straight 20-win season, which would be a first in program history.
As a graduate of the program that she is now in charge of, Gorski’s experience at Bradley is a primary motivator for her coaching style
“I came as an 18-year-old to Bradley … not as confident as I should have been and it’s transformed me and I felt after my time at Bradley, I just really, truly felt like I could do anything,” Gorski said. “That’s really what drives me now as a coach, is I want our young women to feel that, you know, gain that confidence freshman year through their senior year.”