Gadiva Hubbard shows promise and resilience during first season

Hubbard started in 12 of her 20 games played this season.

Gophers guard Gadiva Hubbard completes a pass on  Feb. 11 at Williams Arena.

Chris Dang, Daily File Photo

Gophers guard Gadiva Hubbard completes a pass on Feb. 11 at Williams Arena.

Dominic Davis

Minnesota brought in a scorer when they recruited Gadiva Hubbard.

The freshman guard showed early signs of succeeding at the collegiate level and has delivered ever since. She scored 16 points off the bench in her collegiate debut.

Hubbard’s impact has been undeniable, but the journey, however, hasn’t been easy.

Injury and illness have reduced Hubbard’s time on the court. She missed five games because of mono and two more for a broken nose, but she keeps finding a way to return despite these setbacks.

“It’s hard for any athlete to sit down and watch the sport they love to play,” Hubbard said. “I like cheering for my teammates and getting them excited for the game. It was fun.”

Head coach Marlene Stollings said coming back from injury is difficult but she said she has been impressed with Hubbard’s resiliency.

Hubbard missed the start of Minnesota’s Big Ten games, and Stollings said rookies would normally have a difficult time jumping in and out of conference play.

But Gadiva is different.

“She is a kid who is used to winning,” Stollings said of Hubbard, who won three consecutive state championships playing for Princess Anne in Virginia. “It’s still hard when you’ve not been in those situations, so I think it speaks volumes to her competitiveness.”

Returning from her nose injury, Hubbard scored 19 points on a 7-11 shooting against Rutgers.

The rising star said she had extra motivation heading into that game.

“Before the game, I was told about something in my family that happened,” Hubbard said. “I tried to play for that issue.”

Guard Carlie Wagner said she thinks the setbacks Hubbard has faced will only make her hungrier to play.

“Her being out is really going to increase her intensity and her drive to want to be on the court more,” Wagner said. “It’s going to push her and motivate her to work really hard.”

With an average of 12.4 points per game in her first season, Hubbard is the third-leading scorer for Minnesota behind Wagner and Kenisha Bell.

Hubbard exploded for a career-high 26 points earlier this season against Detroit Mercy.

Besides giving the Gophers a spark offensively, Hubbard finds ways to contribute on the defensive side of the ball.

Wagner values Hubbard’s speed and keen eye on defense. The impact the freshman has on defense is important to the team.

“She scores as well, but the kind of unnoticed part is how much she moves and plays tight defense,” Wagner said. “She has really increased our intensity on defense this year.”

Hubbard is averaging 1.7 steals per game, which is second only to Bell.

Stollings said what Hubbard brings to Minnesota is extremely valuable. As this young team continues to progress, Hubbard will be one of the centerpieces for the next few years.

“You can’t lessen the impact that she had when she was out,” Stollings said. “She accounts for at least 18 points per game. Whether it’s 18 points on her stat line or what she does with her ability to pass and defend.”

Tommy Sletten contributed to this report.