Ridgewood was expecting big things from Justyna Golab as the Rebels prepared for the 2013-14 season.
Just four days before the season began, though, the junior point guard sprained her right ankle and was forced to miss the first six games.
“It was tough playing without her,” Ridgewood junior forward Emsada Prijic said. “Something was missing the whole time. It’s tough when you’re not at full potential while other teams are, but we just tried to work through it.”
Luckily for the Rebels, Golab is back and already showing flashes of how good she can be.
In her second game back, a 57-54 loss to Timothy Christian on Dec. 7, Golab scored 26 points and was 8-for-8 from the floor, including four 3-pointers.
“In the warmups, I didn’t do that good,” Golab said. “I think the ankle is getting better and better. It was swollen and bruised after it happened, but it’s better now. I just ice it after every game.”
Ridgewood (1-8) will likely need Golab to have a monster season. The Rebels had difficulty scoring and handling the ball without her, going 0-6 with each loss by double digits.
“We went through some struggles because we don’t have a strong ball-handler besides Justyna,” Ridgewood coach Amanda LoBianco said. “Lexi Crotty, who plays the four or the five, has to handle the ball when Justyna is out. So not having her affected the scores in all of those games.”
Golab is also a star soccer player for Ridgewood, having scored 15 goals and been named all-conference as a sophomore last spring. She also goes to Tarnow, Poland, every summer with her family, which precludes her from playing AAU ball.
This fall, she made sure to attend every open gym after school and work on her game. The biggest improvement she has noticed is with her jump shot.
“I usually like to drive to the basket, but the last two games I’ve been shooting more 3s,” Golab said. “I took like two 3s last year, but I have more confidence in my shot. And I worked a lot on dribbling because I played [small forward] last year, and now I’m a point guard.”
In her third game back, a 54-53 overtime loss to Elmwood Park on Dec. 10, Golab didn’t leave the court and scored 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting. She had to do a little bit of everything, even leading the team in rebounds with seven. It’s that type of effort that endears her to coaches and teammates.
“All you can ask for as a coach is that you play hard and play smart, and she does both those things,” LoBianco said. “She works her tail off out there.”
While Golab is focused on dominating on the court, she will have an interesting decision to make down the line. LoBianco said Golab has the grades to get into an Ivy League school but also has the ability to play college soccer or basketball.
“I’m still not sure if I want to play soccer or basketball [in college],” Golab said. “I like them both the same amount.”
For now, she’s completely focused on getting the Rebels on the winning track.
“We have to try our hardest at practice and just see what happens,” Golab said.