Gilkey, Klimek persevere to reach 1,000-point milestone
Years of hard work and some tough choices led each player to the Bears and the success they are enjoying on the hardwood. Each forward is the leading scorer for a team ranked in the top six in the NCAA Division III, and both are ranked near the top of the University Athletic Association in scoring (Gilkey first, Klimek second in points per game in conference).
The most notable achievement for both Bears came in the past two weeks, with their 1,000th career points passing through the net.
Klimek scored his 1,000th on a putback off a missed free throw by senior Tim Cooney. Klimek attacked the loose ball and completed the layup, all in midair, as the Phi Delta Theta Bomb Squad chanted, “That’s 1,000!”
Like the rest of the Field House, he knew he was close. His mom took a video of almost the entire game on her cell phone, though he said the footage got shaky as the family celebrated the achievement.
There was a time when Klimek didn’t think he would ever suit up for the Bears. After a pair of herniated disks forced him to sit out his entire freshman year, Klimek worried he would never play basketball again.
But with the starting power forward job open, Klimek worked his way back into playing condition and focused all of his energy on claiming that spot in the lineup.
“I wanted to prove myself and know that I could play at this level…my main goal was to get in that starting spot coming out so I worked to get to there. From there on, I just worked with the system and the guys around me,” Klimek said. “The stars aligned.”
He credits the support he received from his teammates, friends and coaches for keeping him going. Four years ago, his college decision came down to Wash. U., Emory University and Illinois Wesleyan University, but the moment he stepped on Wash. U.’s campus, he knew he had made the right choice.
Klimek is the Wash. U. first post player since Troy Ruths in February 2007 to reach the 1,000-point mark, and head coach Mark Edwards thinks Klimek is as good as any other player who has come through the program, remarking, “I’m just glad we have him.”
Klimek “has established himself very silently as a dominant player for the whole time he has been here,” Edwards said. “His points have been meaningful points. They have helped us win big games and win conference championships and taken us to the NCAA Tournament.”
One week earlier, Gilkey reached the 1,000-point milestone with 12:24 to play against the University of Rochester on Jan. 31, in her 73rd career game. And to think she could have played volleyball for the Bears instead.
The first letter Gilkey ever received from Wash. U. was from the volleyball program and then-coach Rich Luenemann. Gilkey was a three-sport varsity athlete at Woodinville High School in Washington state and struggled with the decision to choose between basketball and volleyball.
“For a long time, I was so stuck on playing volleyball or playing both. It took me a really long time to let go of volleyball and so, when I finally did, I put my whole heart into basketball,” Gilkey said. “That’s when my game really went to the next level.”
From there, Gilkey took to developing a well-rounded game, working on her shooting, driving to the left and finishing with her left hand. The hard work paid off as Gilkey had offers to play at NCAA Division I schools before settling on Wash. U. for its mixture of strong academics and athletics.
“There was not really a trade-off [at Wash. U.]. Some schools have a strong program but aren’t necessarily as academically strong, and other schools had great academics but didn’t focus on athletics much,” Gilkey said. “I didn’t think I could handle letting go of my competitive side or my academic values. Wash. U. was the perfect fit.”
Midway through the second half against Rochester, with Wash. U. fighting back after giving up an 11-point first half deficit, Gilkey drove to the hoop and finished an and-one layup with her now-preferred left hand for points No. 999 and 1,000. She made the ensuing free throw for 1,001. She had no idea she had reached the milestone.
“I knew there was a chance I could get it this year; the last thing I heard was I had gotten to 850 weeks ago, and I hadn’t followed it since then,” Gilkey said. “I heard my name announced in the middle of the Rochester game, but I didn’t know they were announcing it for my 1,000th point. I didn’t know what was going on. I thought they messed up a foul call or something.”
“At the end of the game, someone came up and said ‘congrats,’ and I thought it was on the win…I was confused as to why they weren’t congratulating everyone,” Gilkey added.
Head coach Nancy Fahey went up to Gilkey after the game and told her how amazing the achievement was considering the ball movement in the Bears’ offense. Gilkey is only the 13th player in program history to reach the milestone.
“It’s really difficult to get [1,000 points] in our program…because we do such a good job sharing the basketball on this team,” Fahey said. “This particular freshman class has seen a lot of action, and it’s a credit to her and her teammates.”
Gilkey received an honorary basketball to commemorate the achievement at halftime of the men’s basketball game last Friday.
Gilkey and Klimek will lead their respective teams on the road against Brandeis University and New York University this weekend. The women’s team faces the Judges at 5 p.m. Friday while the men’s game will tip off at 7 p.m.