© 2010 Idaho Press-Tribune

Passing up opportunities to play at Nevada and New Mexico, 2007 Borah High graduate Nicole Gall felt she’d found a pretty good fit when signed a letter of intent to play just south of San Francisco at Santa Clara University.

The warm weather, the chance to play NCAA Division I basketball, and most importantly, Gall adds, the academics, all appealed to her.

But things didn’t go quite the way she planned. 

“My experience, because of my coaches was, for lack of a better word, awful,” Gall said.

And it wasn’t for a lack of playing time, as the true freshman played in 29 games, averaging nearly 18 minutes a night and 5.1 points per game for the Broncos.

“I really didn’t enjoy it, basketball became more of a job really,” she recalled. “It wasn’t a love anymore, it was just a job. My coaches, they really didn’t let us — they were very manipulative and they liked to play a lot of mind games.”

So, Gall packed up, headed out and landed in Caldwell at the College of Idaho. It was close to home, and Gall could play right away instead of losing a year of eligibility, which would have happened if she’d transferred to another D-I program.

“I’ve got a life again,” Gall said. “And I’m still playing basketball and I’m able to focus on my academics and enjoy school and playing and being with my family, so it’s all-around been a really good change.”

Not that she regrets the experience she had in California, adding it made her strong.

Of course, the addition of Gall made the Coyotes much stronger, as she’s helped lead the C of I to back-to-back NAIA Division II national tournament appearances while earning NAIA All-American honors her first two years in Yote purple and gold. The physical therapy major also excels in the classroom, being named an academic All-American last season.

And in this, her senior season, the 5-foot-10 guard leads the C of I in every statistical category — scoring (20.1 ppg), rebounding (6.0 rpg), assists (45), steals (31), blocks (14) — but adds that it’s not her goal to put up big personal numbers.

“My goals this year are really just, every possession find the best shot,” she said. “It’s not to find my shot, it’s to find the opening, whether it be my shot or driving and kicking to someone, or if someone else is open.”

It’s that team attitude that Gall hopes helps the Coyotes (4-4), as they open Cascade Conference play Friday, hosting Northwest (5-3) at 7:30 p.m., then Evergreen State on Saturday, part of a men’s and women’s doubleheader both nights with the men’s games tipping off at 5:30 each evening.

“I’m excited to get into conference,” Gall said, “it’s fun to play the conference preseason but this is where the season starts, when they start really counting.”

Of course, they are winless at home — as are the C of I men — maybe the Yotes would rather have these league openers on the road?

“We had two injuries of two really key players (Meghan Hughes and Marquina Gilliam-Hicks) so we’ve had to change our offense a little bit,” Gall said. “So we’re relying a lot more on our transfers and our freshmen, and they’re doing well.”

No doubt, the Yotes also will rely on their two-time All-American. Gall’s just fine with that.

“I want the ball in my hands at the end of the night if it’s a close game,” she said.

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