WESTPORT — It was all lining up perfectly for Arianna Gerig.
As a sophomore at Staples in the 2017-18 season, Gerig was named to the All-FCIAC second team and looked poised for a breakout campaign in her upcoming junior season.
She was returning to a team that had its eyes set on FCIAC and state title runs and she was beginning to draw interest from Division-I college coaches.
Before it came to be, it all went away.
While playing basketball in June of her sophomore year, Gerig tore her ACL.
There would be no junior season, no talking to college coaches and no chance to help lead her team to any titles.
— Scott Ericson (@EricsonSports) February 7, 2020
Instead, Gerig sat and watched every game and practice while rehabbing her knee behind the scenes.
She said the rehab process was the hardest thing she ever had to go through as an athlete.
Enduring pain and frustration far removed from the spotlight she should have been standing in.
“It was really hard. Basketball is a lot of my life. I love the sport, love the team and love playing. It was so hard realizing that not only was I injured, but with the ACL, it is such a long nine months of recovery during such an important year,” Gerig said. “It was extremely hard to be at practice and games, in that environment and not be able to participate.”
While initially frustrated with missing her junior season, Gerig eventually found positives in the process.
A standout player since grade school, for the first time in her basketball career, she was not on the floor leading her team.
Instead, she watched from the bench, observing the game from an angle not commonly seen by the best player in a program.
“I do think it was a great learning lesson. I learned so much from being at practices and games. It really opened up my perspective to the game and made me a much better player,” Gerig said. “I learned the passes you can make and the openings that you have. I was not aware of those things when I was just playing the whole time. It gave me a step back to see more of the game and was so helpful.”
That long road to recovery only helped fuel what has become an outstanding senior season for the 6-foot forward.
Gerig has established herself as one of the best players in the FCIAC and the state while helping lead Staples to a 15-2 record and the No. 2 ranking in the GameTimeCT Girls Basketball Top 10 Poll.
The Wreckers are currently in line for the No. 1 seed in both the FCIAC and CIAC Class LL tournaments.
— Scott Ericson (@EricsonSports) January 15, 2020
Her knee injury in the rearview mirror, Gerig is running the floor with ease every night while leading the team in scoring and rebounding.
She can use her size inside but it is her speed and ability to beat people off the dribble that makes her game so unique for a player her height.
Defensively, she is a long defender inside but also uses her quickness to jump into passing lanes.
While a Division-I college career was essentially wiped out after missing her junior year, Gerig committed to play at Williams College prior to this season beginning.
“My opinion is, if she played last year, she would have gotten D-I offers,” Staples coach Paco Fabian said. “She is going to a great academic school which is something she wanted to do. I think it is a great fit for her. The way she is playing now, if people walked in the gym and saw her play, more scouts would be all over her.”
After initially being tentative making cuts and running the floor, Gerig built her confidence, game-by-game until she stopped thinking about her knee, altogether.
Another side effect of missing her junior season was that Gerig fell off the radar of those choosing the best players this preseason.
Fabian has tried to use that slight as an extra push for Gerig, especially when she gets to go head-to-head with players who got ranked above her.
That has been evident all season where she was the best player on the floor the nights Staples played Stamford (20 points) and Norwalk (17 points). Both teams had players picked on preseason teams ahead of her.
“Arianna has something to prove. There were a lot of things before the season that had some girls ranked above her. She wants to be known as one of the best players in the FCIAC and the state,” Fabian said. “We tried to use it as motivation. We aren’t going to complain about it, we are just going to prove it on the court that she is one of the best players. She is an amazing player and we go as Arianna goes.”
While Gerig is having a stellar senior year, individually, she is 100-percent focused on team goals.
Gerig is one of five seniors on the team, all of whom have played basketball together since grade school.
“I definitely want to prove I am one of the best players in the state but really, for me, this season is about enjoying my time. You don’t realize how precious and valuable these moments are until you’re not able to play,” Gerig said. “This season is about having a great time with a great group of girls. It would mean so much to get to play for a championship with these girls. It’s always fun to win. I could have the best season but if we aren’t doing well, it’s not going to be fun. Experiencing a winning season with other people I care so much about, is the best feeling in the world.”
A year removed from her lowest point, Gerig is hoping the final month of her high school career delivers what would be the highest point of her time at Staples, raising a championship trophy above her head with her friends by her side.