Gabby Casey wants to leave a legacy.
As a sophomore at Lansdale Catholic, she had a breakout individual season but it was her team’s lack of success that most stuck out and motivated Casey all offseason. She was just as good as a junior, but let go of the urge to do it all herself and as a result, the Crusaders succeeded around her, advancing to the state title and making Casey a sought-after college prospect.
Casey still has a chapter to write at LC but she took herself off the market Sunday night by formally announcing her commitment to St. Joseph’s University.
“I wanted a St. Joe’s offer for a while, I kept telling my mom that that was the one I wanted,” Casey said. “I love the program and I love the coaches, especially Coach (Cindy) Griffin. I’ve gotten to know her through playing with Hannah (Griffin), she’s an amazing person but also really the type of coach I think is best for me as one that’s going to push me in every way.”
The first time Tina Bastardi saw Casey play, she saw an undeniable talent but one that needed some work. Casey’s trainer for the past three years, Bastardi probably knows better than anyone the amount of time, energy, sacrifice and even frustration that has gone into turning that talent into a vessel able to attain that coveted college offer.
As a freshman at LC, Casey was the third wheel on a good team that was in the PIAA quarterfinals when COVID-19 cancelled the season. Still, she had enough of a glimpse at what could be that she approached Bastardi, who was an assistant coach at LC that year, about what it would take to try and realize her dream of playing at the Division I level.
“I saw her play when she was 13 and knew right away she was a special kid,” Bastardi said. “She couldn’t shoot the three at all her freshman year, she was like eight or nine percent and had 22 attempts, now she’s right around 40 percent. It took forever, we tweaked her shot, she was with me for up to three hours every single day of the offseason going into her sophomore year.
“It’s unbelievable the amount of discipline she showed and the amount she sacrificed to get to where she is and I couldn’t be more proud of her.”
Growing up in an athletic family, Casey was always competing but it wasn’t until others started to seek her out that she realized there was more to it.
“I don’t want it to sound all about myself, but it came from being a standout on the court,” Casey said. “Having people I didn’t know come up and acknowledge my talent really motivated me and kind of set a spark off.”
Naturally, there were bad days in the gym and frustration from both sides but Casey kept showing up, kept working through and kept making improvements. It showed in her individual statistics as a sophomore, with Casey even earning second team all-state honors, but Lansdale Catholic had undergone major roster turnover and finished just 2-11 in a shortened season.
Coming back as a junior and elected as a co-captain, Casey wanted to do more through less. She had talented teammates, even if they were mostly underclassmen, but the more she tried to do by herself, the harder it was going to be to win.
“While the numbers weren’t that much statistically better than the previous year, it came back to ‘what do I need to do to make this team successful?,'” LC coach Eric Gidney said. “I think there’s no debate, playing for a state championship a week-and-a-half ago, she realized she didn’t have to put the entire team on her back all the time and she had other ways she could contribute.”
Casey went into the year with one Division I offer but as she continued to produce and the Crusaders won together, more interest came with it. Yes, she had a lot of familiarity with the St. Joe’s program because her AAU teammate happened to be the Hawks’ head coach’s younger daughter, but SJU was also the last team to officially offer her during the season.
St. Joe’s offered on March 15. Casey made her official visit last Wednesday and committed that same day on campus, joining another AAU teammate in Penn Charter junior Aleah Snead in the 2023 incoming class.
“I visited and fell in love with it, just everything about it,” Casey said. “I got a chance to scrimmage with the girls, they were super-welcoming and it seemed like a great fit. I had that feeling that everyone was telling me I would have once I knew that I loved a college.
“I knew right then and there I was going to commit.”
Gidney said he’s respected Casey’s decision-making, both on and off the floor, since she’s arrived at LC and knew the junior would ultimately make the right choice for herself. She had to option to keep her recruitment open, but Casey cited the transfer portal as limiting opportunities and she’d already been offered by the program she was most keen on.
“I think it’s an absolute perfect fit, she gets to stay somewhat local, she has some connections to the team, she’s gotten to know Coach Griffin so there’s a good level of familiarity there,” Gidney said. “I think it ticked every single box for her. For Gabby, it came down to ‘this is where I want to be,’ so why worry about any other offers, I think she wanted to get back to work, get back on the court and let this part of the process go through so she could re-focus on some goals we weren’t able to accomplish.”
Even though she’s committed to St. Joe’s, Casey isn’t lacking for motivation. She’s ready to get her AAU season with the Philly Belles started and to get back in the gym with Lansdale Catholic in May as the Crusaders look to take the next steps from this season and contend for a PCL title and get back to Hershey to finish the job. Casey has already started talking to Bastardi about their next steps too, which her trainer said will likely focus on defense and just continuing to hammer in on fundamentals to reinforce the progress Casey has already made.
Winning titles would be gratifying on an individual level, but something Casey and Bastardi have talked about is being more than a year on a banner. Casey has one season left at LC but her teammates, like sophomore Olivia Boccella or freshmen Saniyah Littlejohn and Nadia Yemola, have multiple seasons to go.
One good playoff run and whatever the team accomplishes next year isn’t what Casey is envisioning. She’s hoping to set an example for her current teammates and the players yet to come through the program so the Crusaders can stay on a level of contention.
“They look at what she does and they want to be like that,” Bastardi said. “The work she has done up to this point is feeding into those other kids. Even those kids, Saniyah and Nadia, they stepped up in big moments and Gabby is part of that reason. If they don’t get extra work in after practices, they’re not in the position they’re in either.
“She’s trying to leave her mark on that program and that school, so to build her legacy through the rest of those kids is where she’s going to be able to do all that.”
It’s a responsibility Casey is aware of and preparing herself for.
“I hope I can be a role model for them,” Casey said. “They’re already very dedicated and hard-working but we’ve already talked about getting in the gym every day over the summer to get better together. I hope they can see that hard work really pays off, they all have bright futures, I just want to help them see it for themselves.”