Having a solid bench is important to the success of any team, and last season Villanova had the Big East Sixth Woman of the Year in then sophomore forward Mary Gedaka.
Still, change is the only constant in college athletics, and the Wildcats lost two players who each started 30 games during the 2017-18.
Coming into this season, ’Nova did not have the luxury of bringing its leading returning scorer and rebounder off the bench.
After making just one career start through her first two seasons on The Main Line, Gedaka has started all nine for the Wildcats in 2018-19.
“Last year, I did find it beneficial to get to kind of analyze a game before coming in off the bench,” Gedaka said. “This year, I’m embracing the role as a starter. Focusing on the scouting report has been a big part of starting, understanding the player I’m going up against.
“The main thing is I want to bring the same energy at the start of a game as I did coming off the bench. That’s really an important point of my game.”
Gedaka’s new role has served both the team and player well.
With Gedaka’s minutes increasing to an average of nearly eight more per game to 30, her scoring has increased from 11.6 to 14.4 ppg., and she’s pulling down nearly three more rebounds from 4.9 to 7.8.
At 6-foot-1, Gedaka leads Villanova in both categories, while shooting an amazing 71.2 percent from the floor – which ranks fourth in the nation.
“I didn’t know that I was ranked fourth,” Gedaka said. “Really, it’s a credit to my teammates, because they’ve found me endlessly this season. If you look at all the assists they have on my baskets, you’ll see.
“Layups are something people take for granted. That’s where I get most of my points from. It’s not a gimme shot, especially when I’m an undersized forward going up against girls who are four or five inches taller. I just have to collect myself, have patience, and be as strong with the ball as I can.”
Although a reserve, Gedaka logged a lot of minutes with Villanova’s three returning starters – Kelly Jekot, Adrianna Hahn, and Jannah Tucker – last season.
The group has used the first part of the season to better understand each other’s tendencies and roles to be better prepared once Big East Conference play begins against Butler on Dec. 29.
“Having experience playing together last year has definitely helped and has translated on to the court for sure,” Gedaka said.
A three-time South Jersey Player of the Year at Gloucester Catholic, Gedaka had some doubts about coming to Villanova because her mother, Lisa, who was also her high school coach, played at Villanova and has her number retired.
The former Lisa Angelotti scored more than 1,600 points at ’Nova and was the 1986-87 Big East Conference player of the year.
Gedaka said she was worried about getting lost in her mother’s shadow, but on a recruiting visit to the Main Line, a professor told her that her mother had a different name when she played for Villanova 30 years ago.
“She said maybe people won’t be comparing the two of you, and that kind of sat with me very well,” said Gedako, who was named the most recent Big East Player of the Week, as well as the Philadelphia Big Five Player of the Week. “I know my mom has left an amazing legacy here, but I’m not chasing her.
“I’m more trying to replicate the hard work and passion she had for the game and bring that into my own game. I am my own person, and my mom always taught me to just work as hard as I possibly can when I am playing.”