All Gabs, no breaks

Team captain sets career scoring, rebounding records

Setting up just outside the arc, Gabby Elliott prepares for an inbounds pass on Dec. 10 against Laredo United South. Elliott, a St. Marys commit, holds four school records and is closing in on 1,000 career rebounds.

Emily Ingram

Setting up just outside the arc, Gabby Elliott prepares for an inbounds pass on Dec. 10 against Laredo United South. Elliott, a St. Mary’s commit, holds four school records and is closing in on 1,000 career rebounds.

Jackson Posey, Sports Director

It’s rare that a team’s best player is also its hardest worker. Superlative talent can often lead to an air of complacency, even arrogance, as elite players can stand out with minimal effort.

But that’s not Gabby Elliott.

Before district play even began, the four-year starter set the Rangers’ all-time records for career points and rebounds. She’s also a two-time team captain who’s garnered a reputation for her strong work ethic.

“The value (of having a four-year starter and captain) really comes in having the other players on our team … compete against her every day,” head coach Matthew Sutherland said. “If she brings her game on a daily basis, then she’s forcing our other players on the floor to have to compete with that. And if they don’t compete with that, then she just completely dominates.”

That dominance, though, is not devoid of grace.

“She’s very driven about her team and she’s very considerate of other people’s feelings on the court as well,” longtime friend and teammate Corinne Levy said. “But she knows when it’s the right time to kind of tap into the game and use her offensive skills.”

Despite her current status as team captain, Elliott wasn’t always such a bold leader. According to Levy, she used to be more reserved.

“She’s always been the best player on every team that I’ve been on, but she’s definitely grown a lot (since middle school),” Levy said. “(She’s grown) in her skill set, obviously, but also in just knowing when to make the right reads on the court and off the court as well. And she’s become (less) shy. She kind of found herself a little bit, I think.”

Like her teammate, Elliott’s high school coach has seen her transformation firsthand.

“Gabby has grown since I first met (her),” Sutherland said. “She was real quiet. She wasn’t a great leader on the floor. But over these last couple years and specifically this year, she has grown into a great leader. Her practice habits are outstanding. She leads the team on the floor (and) she helps to lead the team off the floor.”

As she broke out of her shell off the court, Elliott dominated on it. She played a key role in the Rangers’ playoff berths as a freshman and sophomore, and has since set four records: career points scored (1,297), career rebounds (956), blocks in a season (48) and rebounds in a game (18, a mark she’s achieved five times).

Sutherland took the head coaching gig in 2019 after a stint as an assistant at a west Texas school then known as Midland Lee (now Midland Legacy). As soon as he met Elliott, he knew she had the potential to write her name in the record books.

“Honestly, yeah, I did,” Sutherland said. “(Assistant coach Shane) Meling and I had those conversations. She’s a special player, she’s a special talent. We knew that she was capable of breaking those records if she stayed consistent, if she continued to work hard. (And) she’s here all summer long, she plays a competitive select basketball season with some great coaching. So we did expect her to have the opportunity to do that … I’m not surprised at all.”

Sutherland may not have been surprised by Elliott’s record-setting career, but he celebrated alongside everyone else when she cracked those ceilings. But he wasn’t just celebrating one more rebound; he was celebrating an athlete who consistently elevates those around her.

“I was just happy for her,” Sutherland said. “She puts in so much work, she works hard. She leads her teammates daily. She’s one of our best practice players every day, and … I was just happy for her. I’ve been really excited to see everything come together with her, signing with St. Mary’s, her getting the school records. (And) she’s (about to reach) a thousand rebounds, so she’s gonna continue to break the records as we go through the season … (I’m) just excited for her to have that individual success, cuz she’s done so much for us.”

Elliott was always talented, but Sutherland is just as impressed with her leadership skills. When he first took the job, he introduced himself to a shy, 6 foot 1 inch freshman. Three years later, she’s become a confident team captain.

“She’s really … learned to balance the difficulties of being a captain, that sometimes, you holding your teammates accountable can be a little difficult,” Sutherland said. “So she’s learned and she’s progressed in that way so much. … She’s just been a joy to coach. She’s a great athlete, she’s a great kid. Always got a smile on her face … we’re definitely gonna be missing her next year.”

There’s often a strange tension created when teenagers have to lead their peers, but the team has welcomed Elliott’s guidance. Her selflessness is evident on and off the court.

“She struggles with that, but in the best way possible,” Levy said. “She needs to know the right time, like when to use her skills for the better rather than pass it out … but that’s (because) we need her, (because) she pretty much is our offense. So, I would say (she’s) a really driven player that has a heart for her teammates as well. But I think that she understands that, you know, like, how much we need her … she feels like she needs us the same way.”

That mutual trust has become the foundation of a team fighting for a postseason berth. On the line is a historic feat: the program has never produced four playoff teams in five seasons. That could change in a few months.

After that, Elliott’s path heads south to St. Mary’s University, where Sutherland thinks she could earn All-Conference honors. But no matter where life takes her, she’s made her mark on Smithson Valley basketball, as the shy girl who put her team on her back and wrote her name into the record books. And that’s a story which won’t soon be forgotten.