As every Brock University student-athlete walks up the main staircase in Walker Complex, they see a photograph of Kristin Gallant taking a free throw during a Brock women’s basketball game at the Meridian Centre in downtown St. Catharines.
When Gallant and the Badgers return from the holiday break to start 2020, their first home game of the new year will be the latest edition of the Paint the Meridian Red game back at the Meridian Centre on Saturday, Jan. 11.
Both Gallant and the Badgers have come a long way since that photograph of the guard was taken two years ago. Brock’s women’s basketball team headed into the holiday break riding a six-game winning streak. Their 9-1 record has them ranked first in the OUA Central division and No. 9 in the nation.
Gallant, meanwhile, is reinventing her game.
The third-year guard wondered what role she would play as the Brock University women’s basketball team was overhauled in the offseason with a wave of recruits and a new offensive scheme.
Then head coach Mike Rao approached Gallant with an idea.
“Mike told me you’re going to be a totally different player come next season,” said Gallant, who spent the summer in the Brock Sports Performance weight room. “Rao is in the process of making me more of an all-round player. He’s changing my shooting form and improving my ball handling so that I can begin to be one of the key playmakers on our team.”
Gallant was also encouraged to improve her shot so that defenders would have to respect her field goal attempts instead of just guarding her as a driver.
“Her work ethic is second to none,” said Rao. “She has a tremendous work ethic. What’s really impressed me about Kristin is that she’s learning to control her body with the ball, without the ball.”
If anyone on the roster has the ability to remake what kind of player they are, it’s Gallant, added Rao.
In her second season with the Badgers, Gallant played a bigger role than her freshman year. She was a key piece in helping the women’s basketball team bounce back from a forgettable campaign in 2017-18 when they team went 6-18.
She finished second on the team in scoring last season, and posted a game-high 15 points over Wilfrid Laurier University in the first round of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs to help the Badgers capture their first playoff victory since 2012.
Gallant originally built her game around velocity.
“In my previous years I was typically one of the stronger players, so I was always told to use my speed and just go-go-go,” she said. “That technique always got me far in high school, but when it came to university, it wasn’t always so successful.”
When Rao was hired as head coach in 2018, he made an emphasis of getting Gallant to start thinking more in game-state situations.
“Kristin is starting to come into her own. Now we’re refining her game,” said Rao. “Last year, she would take the ball and drive to the net. That’s good when it’s open, but when it’s not then it’s catastrophe.”
During their final game of the first half, the revival of Gallant’s game was on display in Hamilton where she shot 57 per cent versus the defending champion McMaster Marauders, but more importantly, when she snagged a crucial offensive rebound to maintain possession and hold on for a 82-80 win.
That hard-nosed play to beat out two defenders for the rebound was trademark Gallant, according to her high school coach Cailin Miziolek.
Gallant attended Bishop Reding Secondary School in Milton, Ont., where she forged her determination to overcome odds.
“Kris pushes herself to be the best version of herself that she can be,” said Miziolek. “She is tough as nails, she will put the team on her back, she doesn’t shy away from responsibility, because she’s a winner. As soon as the buzzer goes she returns to being her kind and humorous self.”
An example of her never-give-up attitude came during her Grade 12 year.
Gallant suffered an ankle injury, but was set on qualifying for the Ontario Federation School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) track and field championships in hurdles.
“Kristin would stay late after practice was done and come in on the weekends, pushing to improve,” said Miziolek.
She went on to qualify, finishing seventh in the province.
The Bishop Reding Royals girls basketball team wasn’t exactly a powerhouse during Gallant’s final season, but in one of her last games, she scored 38 points during a double overtime victory, and made two clutch foul shots to send the game into overtime.
“We weren’t very strong that season, but she never complained or gave up,” said Miziolek. “Just went out there and did what she needed to do.”
Gallant credits Miziolek for taking the game of basketball seriously.
“She always did so much for me like drive me to practices or open up the gym so I could shoot around, and work on drills,” said Gallant. “She always had the most faith in me on the court and always spoke so highly of me, which never failed to give me motivation to get better. It allowed me to believe that I can do anything if I just work hard.”
It’s no secret that varsity athletes spend several hours a week training and practicing, but something that isn’t talked about is how busy their lifestyle is.
“I have lived in St. Catharines every summer since I started at Brock so that I could train with the team and my coach,” said Gallant. “I workout everyday, go on runs twice a week to compete with the girls in the gym and shoot around in my free time, all while working full-time. Not everybody realizes how hard it is to actually be an athlete at this level.”
Gallant, who studies Psychology, takes a full course load in hopes of finishing her undergrad in four years.
“I am proud to be able to accomplish all of this,” said Gallant. “Our goal is always to leave everything out on the court no matter what we’re going through, what game it is, or what the score is. That’s the culture we want here.”