Mary Gedaka looks to improve heading into 2017-18 season



Gedaka in action during a game in Jan. 2017.

Dave Jarman

Ever since she can remember, Mary Gedaka was always around the sport of basketball. 

“I was exposed to it from the very beginning of my life,” Gedaka said. “It’s been a part of me forever.” 

Her mother Lisa, who played at Villanova and currently coaches the women’s basketball team at Gloucester Catholic High School in South N.J., always brought Gedaka to her practices.

Gedaka started playing basketball in elementary school, learning the fundamentals of the game. It was at this stage of her life that basketball became fun for her. 

“I started playing in CYO leagues and that’s when it was fun,” Gedaka said. “I was able to learn to just love the game and appreciate it.” 

But like all athletes, when they realize their potential in a sport can take them far, it quickly transitions from an activity to something serious. For Gedaka, it started in high school. When she played for her mom at Gloucester Catholic, the competition level significantly increased. Her competitiveness was able to grow from the competition. 

“It began to get serious when I got to high school,” Gedaka recalled. “I gained a competitive side of me. I wanted to continue to get better and improve on certain skills.”  

She started evolving as a young student-athlete freshman year of high school. What helped her ease the pressure to perform at the highest level at was the chemistry she had with her best friend, Maggie McIntyre.  Gedaka credits her for transforming her game.  

“We had intuitive communication between each other that no one else knew, it was so weird,” Gedaka said. “She just knows my game so well and I know hers. She would know where I was going before I even knew where I was going. It was so much fun.” 

McIntyre, the starting point guard at Niagra University, not only admits it, but can say the same about her “bestie” as well. 

“Yes, it’s true,” McIntyre said. “The chemistry Mary and I had on and off the court was everything. I knew what Mary was going to do with the ball before she did. I knew exactly where she was going at all times. I appreciate the credit that Mary gives me, but at the end of the day, she’s the best player I’ve ever played with. I wouldn’t be the player I am today without her.” 

“Playing together took the pressure off of everything,” McIntyre added. “We knew that whatever happened at the end of the day, it happened to us together.”  

Both have played basketball with each other since kindergarten, later playing in three N.J. Championships.

“It felt like we were just playing pickup,” McIntyre said. “When we played together, it felt like we were in our own little world.

While Gedka was transforming her game at Gloucester Catholic, what can’t be ignored is how influential her mother was. The bond that they share has helped Gedaka grow into the player she is today.  

“We were literally around each other 24/7,” Gedaka said. “There were ups, there were downs, but it was an experience that I just look back at and realize that what we got to go through together was amazing. She was good at separating the mother-daughter and player-coach relationship. We couldn’t talk about it unless I brought it up. She’s basically my inspiration. I’m very thankful because my high school years could have been bad. I had a bit of an attitude. But she put up with me and was great. I am very thankful for that.” 

While her mother critiqued her fundamentals, she also taught Mary about an important value that is instilled in her to this day: hard work. 

“[She taught me] to play hard every second of every game and that you don’t need to have talent to work hard,” Gedaka said. “She constantly instilled that in me. Even if I’m not the best player out there, if I’m working hard, that will get me somewhere.” 

Gedaka’s hard work was able to give her an opportunity to play Division I basketball. With her mother’s reputation at Villanova, it seemed from an outsider’s perspective that Villanova was the clear choice. After all, Lisa Angelotti, her mother’s maiden name, scored over 2,000 points and has her jersey retired on the Main Line. But, it was quite the opposite. 

“She made me visit other schools,” Gedaka said. “I think a part of me was influenced because I was brought up in this environment and Villanova was all I knew.” 

Gedaka received offers from St. Joseph’s and George Washington. But in the end, Villanova was the decision for Gedaka.  

Coming in as a freshman, Gedaka knew that there would be ups and downs on playing in her first season as a college basketball player. With competition at a high level, receiving playing time would be tough. Yet, she was able to maintain a positive attitude. When she had an opportunity to make an impact, she was able to take full advantage of it. 

In the game at Butler last year, she recorded a 20-point, 10 rebound performance off the bench to help the Wildcats come back from a 20-point deficit to earn a victory.

“It really helped my confidence,” Gedaka recalled. “My playing time last year was up and down, and that’s normal for a freshman. The Butler game made me realize that I can repeat and I can play at this level. That definitely helped me mentally.” 

While she averaged only 5.3 points and 3.7 rebounds in 14 minutes of play per game last season, Gedaka showed flashes of that confidence after her Butler performance. In fact, she scored double digits seven times last season. She followed her performance against Butler with a game-high 18 points at Xavier, earning her Big East Rookie of the Week and National Freshman of the Week Honors.  

This year, Gedaka and the Wildcats are looking to build off last season in which the Wildcats reached the semi-finals of the WNIT. With a majority of last year’s roster returning this year, they are able to build on their experience and camaraderie on and off the court. With a unique offense that Perretta runs, sending all five players to the perimeter, Gedaka hopes to improve on her outside shooting. 

“My shooting for sure,” laughs Gedaka. “Shooting because of the offense we run and it’s not my strong suit, I’m definitely more comfortable putting the ball on the floor and driving past defenders.” 

But at 6’1”, she also wants to improve on other aspects of her game, especially her defense and rebounding. She takes pride in emphasizing rebounding, as almost half of her rebounds were on the offensive end. Finishing on her offensive boards is something she has worked on this offseason. 

“Finishing is a very big concern for me, especially because I am not as comfortable shooting from the outside,” Gedaka said. “And playing good defense too.” 

In this season’s opener against Hartford, Gedaka tallied 15 points and 11 rebounds in a 71-53 victory, recording her second career double-double. So far, it looks like her hard work is paying off.