Hinsdale Central’s Tom McKenna doesn’t even want to think about coaching basketball without Gabrielle Rush.
“She will be hard to replace,” he said. “I’m taking it day by day, game by game. I don’t want to even think about the fact that this is her senior year. I haven’t even approached senior night. I will be crying more than anyone in the whole place.”
Rush has been a scoring machine since she first walked onto the court as a freshman in 2012. The 5-10 guard recently passed former Stanford star Toni Kokenis to become Hinsdale Central’s all-time leading scorer. Her 25 points against Trinity last week gave her 563 this season and 2,113 for her career.
“I’m hoping someone will come along and break my record in a couple of years,” Rush said. “But we’ll see. Toni made it pretty hard for me.”
But Rush has done more than score points this season. She has led a team with little varsity experience and three sophomore starters to the championship of the Bill Neibch Classic at Wheaton North and wins over five ranked opponents.
“Surprised? I would say a little,” Rush said. “Coming into this year, I didn’t really know what to expect. I played with those seniors last year for so long. But I’m really excited about this team. I know we’re young, but I think everyone has stepped up to the plate and filled the positions we need.”
The team’s youth has also thrust Rush into an unfamiliar role.
“It gives me a new role on the team as being a leader, which I haven’t had in the past because I’ve always been the young one,” she said. “There have been veterans older than me. It’s kind of cool now because I’m the oldest one and I get to show them the ropes and hopefully help them to get better.”
One of the most important lessons Rush imparts to her young teammates is how to compete, McKenna said.
“She’s so competitive,” McKenna said. “She recognizes those [scoring] numbers are her legacy, but her legacy is also those kids. They can be a really good group in a couple of years, and they can say they really learned from Gabrielle because she never stopped competing.
“That’s the greatest part to me. She understands that there’s more to your legacy than numbers, and she’s got some pretty decent numbers.”
Next year, Rush will take those numbers to Princeton, which is currently 17-0, ranked 19th in the latest Associated Press NCAA Division I women’s basketball poll and seeking its fifth Ivy League title in six years. She plans to major in economics.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “It’s the best of both worlds there.”
She will leave behind a record — and a legacy — that may never be equaled.
“I will miss the girls and the coaches,” Rush said. “We have wins and we have losses, we have ups and downs, but the girls are always there to get better, to make each other better. That’s so humbling and so gratifying to see the girls are getting better.
“Hopefully, I have had a little part in that.”