Freshman Aly Gamez laughs at the mention of her height.
Fresno State’s 5-foot-6 point guard is aware of how much basketball values size. But she is also aware of how much success she has been able to have in spite of her frame.
A three-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American nominee coming out of high school, Gamez has always figured out a way to persevere.
“It’s a little bit of a challenge, I guess, because I’m always guarding taller people – whether that be [5-foot-8 or 5-foot-9],” Gamez said. “But knowing [scouting reports], I’ve realized, is very important.”
Knowing players’ tendencies has helped her make up for the height disadvantage.
Gamez’s rebounding is a testament to how little she allows her height to affect her. She averages 4.1 rebounds a game, good for third on the team.
Her 12 rebounds against Colorado State are the most any Bulldog has had all season.
“We work on it every day for a good amount of time, [we work on] just having that urgency to block out, look for the ball and go grab it,” Gamez said.
Her hard work and dedication have paid off in an ever-increasing role on the team. She starts and averages 26.4 minutes a game. That spot and those minutes were both earned in highly competitive practices.
“You have to earn your spot every single practice and every single day,” she said. “That was really important for me – to know that when you go into practice every single day and compete, you have a chance.”
Gamez began the season as a reserve but slid into a starting spot for the team’s Nov. 30 game against UC Santa Barbara. Gamez has started every game since.
“It’s been tough at times, but just staying ready and building my confidence has helped a lot,” Gamez said.
Her newfound confidence is a result of a supportive team and coaching staff, she said. She specifically cited fellow guard Candice White as one of the most helpful presences on the team.
“Every day during practice she’s very competitive – pushing, not only me, but the whole team to get better,” Gamez said.
And she has gotten better, averaging 9.1 points per game in conference play – second most on the team. She scored a total of nine points in her first three games.
But Gamez knows she’s far from the player she wants to be. Her offensive efficiency is definitely a problem, she said.
She’s had a number of double-digit scoring outings, but she is shooting 43.5 percent from three and 71.4 percent from the free-throw line on the season. Neither of those averages is satisfactory, especially her free-throw average.
“It’s, like, mental, so I just need to focus when I get up to the line and don’t worry about anything else,” she said of her struggles.
Gamez also feels like she’s coughing up the ball far too much as the team’s primary ball handler. It’s something she’s struggled with since the preseason.
She attributed her turnover struggles to “sloppy” passing.
“Sometimes I see something. It’s there one second, and the next second it might not be there,” Gamez said.
Those wayward passes result in about two turnovers per game.
Gamez is excited to keep working on her game, and she’s excited to keep doing it in Fresno.
“It’s been a great experience, so far. I didn’t expect it to be like this,” she said. “We have great coaches. I have great teammates; professors. They’ve been really great.”
The Irving, Texas native has found a home at Fresno State and is excited to continue building a rapport with a team that has no seniors, meaning that – barring transfer – they will all play another season together.
This season, Gamez said the team has had the Mountain West Conference championship in its sights.. She said she thinks the Bulldogs are prepared to do everything it takes to get there.
On Jan. 24, Gamez’s 3-pointer at the buzzer to defeat UNLV checked in at No. 9 on Sports Center’s Top 10.
In that game, Gamez recorded a season-high 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting and 6-of-6 from beyond the arc. The six made 3’s was the most by a ‘Dog this season.
Gamez and the ‘Dogs will be back in action at 7 p.m. Monday against Air Force at the Save Mart Center.