Illini of the Week Feb. 17: Gail Gaeng


Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Gail Gaeng (3) attempts a shot during the wheelchair basketball game v. Alabama at the ARC on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. Illinois won 56-47.

By Thomas Polcyn

Editor’s note: The Daily Illini sports desk sits down each week and decides which Illinois athlete or coach is our Illini of the Week. Athletes and coaches are evaluated by individual performance and contribution to team success.

In their final home tournament of the season, the women’s wheelchair basketball team went 4-0, outscoring the opposition by a total of 63 points.

The whole team played well, but a lot of the Illini’s success was built on Gail Gaeng.

The United States national team member had a big statistical weekend. In the tournament’s four games, she scored 76 points, with 32 assists, and 40 rebounds. She also had a triple-double and two double-doubles in the tournament.

The Illini knocked off defending national champion Alabama — twice — and added wins against Arizona State and Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Stuffing the stat sheet is nothing new to Gaeng. She leads the team in points, rebounds and assists. Statistically, she has been strong all season, but to her teammates and coaches she means much more.

“I absolutely love what she brings to the team,” head coach Stephanie Wheeler said. “Not only does she score a lot, but she’s such a great leader for the team. She loves basketball and loves to compete out on the court. No matter the situation, she is definitely the hardest worker on the team, and it sets a great example.”

Gaeng’s teammates recognize her excellence as well.

“She’s a team player in all parts of the game,” fellow teammate Megan Blunk said. “She does a great job getting everyone involved and she never tries to dominate the game by herself. Her communication and leadership skills push us all to be better.”

Gaeng knows she has played well, but as her self-described “harshest critic,” believes she still has plenty of room to improve. She thinks that in her time here, her leadership skills have grown.

For the team as a whole, the goal is still the national championship. They currently sit atop the college division, and will have just one more tournament at the University of Alabama before heading off to Edinborough to play for the national championship.

[email protected]?