LOVE FOR THE GAME

Ria Gulley attempts to drive past defense
Ria Gulley attempts to drive past defense

Gulley’s dedication leading to success

By Pat Turner

Ria Gulley loves basketball.

It’s evident by the way Clark senior guard handles herself on the court. Although she’s mainly a point guard, she goes beyond setting up shots, by hitting jumpers of her own when the opportunity presents itself, while also mixing it up on the boards.

If that’s not enough to convince someone of the hoop passion, her college choice should do the trick as Gulley is headed to basketball paradise after graduation to play for Indiana.

For someone who eats and sleeps basketball like Gulley, that will be the ideal situation. However, she has a little homework to do before arriving on campus. The first assignment is watching the classic sports movie “Hoosiers,” which describes the state’s love for basketball at its fullest.

“They won’t let me on campus until I see the movie,” Gulley said with a laugh. “I’m going to see it. I love Indiana. Basketball is big up there like football is big in Texas. When I got on campus I noticed a lot of outdoor courts and people were playing pick-up games everywhere. I was thinking this is beautiful. I can get used to this.

“I love the program. The players are very close knit. They play great basketball. They pass the ball. There’s a lot of movement and that is good.”

While being part of the Hoosier Nation is a golden opportunity, Gulley wants to end her career Clark on a positive note.

For the most part, Gulley’s senior season is going well. She leads Clark (23-3, 3-1) with a 12.9 average and 120 assists, while also totaling 37 steals and 124 rebounds.

Gulley and the Cougars suffered a setback this past week. In addition to dropping their first District 27-6A contest in a 56-47 loss to Taft, the senior was sidelined most of the time with an ankle sprain.

The optimistic Gulley looks at the situation as temporary. She expects to be in action next week and has no doubt the Cougars will make a full recovery.

“This team can do good things if we keep our focus,” Gulley said. “We all have to want it. That’s the main thing. We have to play our hardest. That’s all you can do at this point.”

Gulley makes her presence felt a number of ways. At the same time, her four years of experience at the varsity level goes a long way. She has grown a great deal during that time. In a nutshell, that has enabled to her to shine, especially in pressure situations.

“A lot of it is mental,” Gulley said. “Other teams will try to intimidate you. They’ll try to get you down or fouled out. They’ll go after you, double team or triple team. You have to stay focused and communicate with your teammates.

“When I am on defense, I am always thinking about what the offense is going to do. When I am offense I know they’re thinking the same thing I was thinking. I try to read what the defense is doing and just keep attacking. I try to get them off guard.”

Gulley is making it a point to make a bigger impact this year. She’s had a sharp shot since the beginning, but preferred setting up scoring opportunities for her teammates. Once a request came for her to put the ball up more often, the Clark guard accepted the role.

She’s handing out assists to teammates like Emily Sims, Kassie Ybarra, Jessica Paz y Puente and Kasey Rhone. When a sure shot is there, Gulley doesn’t hesitate to deliver.

“I try to do everything,” said Gulley, who also triple jumps during track season. “I love passing the ball. I would rather have a game-winning assist than a game-winning shot.
“But I knew I had to shoot more this year. I am feeling better about. I want to keep helping us every way.”

Clark coach Richard Herbst noticed Gulley’s versatility as a freshman. Now, he is seen rise to a higher level, especially with the shooting.

No doubt the effort is appreciated.

“Ria is one of those multi-position players who make your life easier,” Herbst said. “She does a lot of things well. She is a gifted athlete, but she is also a hard worker. She is willing to work to get better. She loves basketball.”

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