Hannah Gilbert and the women's basketball team play two games this weekend, including a Saturday home matchup against conference-leading UC Riverside.| Christa Lam/Mustang News

Hannah Gilbert Profile

Pass. Dribble. Shoot. Miss.

It’s a cold, damp Friday morning outside Mott Gym. At 8 a.m., campus is quiet. But in Mott Athletics Center, it’s a cacophony of yells, dribbles and whistles as the Cal Poly women’s basketball team practices the day before taking on Cal State Fullerton.

Pass. Dribble. Shoot. Miss.

“Why are my shots not falling?” junior forward Hannah Gilbert said, visibly distraught. She’s the focal point of the offensive set the starters are running in preparation for the Titans. She has been unable to connect from the low block so far in this set.
Pass. Dribble. Shoot. Score.

That’s more like it.

Gilbert has quietly put together a stellar season that only expanded on her performance last year. She leads the team and stands third in the Big West Conference in field goal percentage this season (52.4 percent), leads the conference in rebounding (9.5 per game) and stands fifth in conference in scoring at 13.4 points per game. She controls the paint for the Mustangs with her efficient scoring and reliability on the glass.

Pass. Dribble. Shoot. Score.

Gilbert’s blonde ponytail whips around her shoulders as she celebrates with a fist pump.

On to the next set.

Last season, Gilbert was tasked with filling the shoes of one of Cal Poly’s best athletes, Molly Schlemer. Schlemer was awarded Big West Conference Player of the Year when Gilbert was a freshman and currently plays professionally in Turkey.

“I’m very privileged that I got to watch the Big West Player of the Year and that was my introduction to the team,” Gilbert said. “She’s always been someone I’ve aspired to be like — to be a leader and someone that produces points, rebounds, whatever the team needs.”

Gilbert arrived on campus an award-winner, already with an established pedigree. As a senior at Morro Bay High School, she was named The Tribune’s San Luis Obispo County Player of the Year and led the team to two consecutive league titles.

Though Morro Bay is only 13 miles from Cal Poly, staying local wasn’t a huge deal for Gilbert. Instead, she focused on the academic benefits of coming to school here.

“It’s such a highly academic school here,” she said. “It’s really hard to get in to. So sports helped me get to a school I’ve loved watching since I was younger.”

On the court, it’s hard to miss when Gilbert is in the game. If the bleach-blonde hair wasn’t obvious enough, her 6-foot-3, long-armed frame deftly navigating the paint is hard to miss.

“Usually when you’re taller, you tend to slow down,” she said. “I think I’m pretty fast for my size, so it helps me get around people in the paint. And my teammates always know where I am, so they’re great at getting me the ball.”

“Her height and ability to run are two things that can’t be taught,” senior guard Beth Balbierz said. “She could outrun any post I’ve ever played against which is advantageous for us since our primary goal is transition on offense.”

And getting her the ball more on offense has a direct effect on the team’s performance. The team is 4-3 when she gets a double-double, and she’s scored in double figures in all but two of the team’s wins.

On the season, the team stands at 10-10 and 3-4 in Big West play, and recently Gilbert has been on a tear. The first game to start her recent run was a 23-point, 17-rebound game in a 97-72 win against Sacramento State on Dec. 29.

Following that home win against Sacramento State, Gilbert has averaged 16.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, setting another career high in rebounds with 18 in a 72-54 road win over UC Irvine on Jan. 9.

“Her ability to enjoy the game has led to her performance being better,” head coach Faith Mimnaugh said. “Defensively, she’s come up with huge blocked shots for us, she’s been great on rotations, she can move off of ball screens, she’s so agile she can defend anywhere on the court. She’s becoming a fabulous player.”

Winning three of their last four games has moved the Mustangs up to fourth in the Big West standings as the season turns to primarily conference matchups. With Gilbert leading the team in points, rebounds, field goal percentage and blocks, making up a three-game gap to conference-leading UC Riverside (13-7, 6-0) isn’t out of the question, especially with the majority of the conference schedule still to come.

Beyond basketball, the recreation, parks and tourism administration student takes pride in things outside of dominating the paint for the Mustangs. She’s concentrating in event planning, taking after her mother, who is the Vice President for the Scenic Coast Association of Realtors in Morro Bay. Often, her mother organizes events for realtors, hosts meetings and budgets events among other duties.

“It’s perfect. I get to be design-oriented, it’s a social major and I’m very organized,” she said with a smile. “My mom and her job — I’ve watched her and that’s the kind of job I want to have.”

Wherever her future lies — in basketball, event planning, or something else entirely — you can be sure Gilbert will take care of business in the same way she leads the Mustangs this season: efficiently and reliably. And with that signature blonde hair.

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