Gabby Banda (77) was Rhonda Revelle’s first recruit from Texas in 18 years.
By Randy York
Kim Schellpeper will never forget the first time she met Gabby Banda. It was the Angleton, Texas, native’s initial recruiting visit to Nebraska. A key academic staff member, Schellpeper led a tour of the Dick and Peg Herman Family Student Life Complex explaining all the resources that would be available to Gabby if she chose to become a Husker student-athlete. After the tour, Banda opened her arms widely and warmly and hugged Schellpeper, thanking her for taking the time to meet with her and inspire her.
Banda ended up starting four consecutive years at shortstop and third base for the Huskers, but after that first meeting she very shyly asked Schellpeper if she could take a picture so she could share it with her family back home. Family, you see, was the ultimate recruiting pitch that enabled a young Texas girl, whose family had never experienced college, to be bold and go where this tight-knit family had never gone.
"As a first-generation college student, Gabby’s excitement and enthusiasm for attending college at the University of Nebraska was not only a goal for Gabby, but for her entire family," Schellpeper said this week. "Athletically, Gabby had a superb career, and her commitment to success is reflected in how hard she has persevered to achieve success."
Gabby Banda made the 2013 Big Ten All-Defense Team in WCWS season.
Academic Achievements Her Pride and Joy
Despite playing on a completely torn ACL for two years, Gabby helped Nebraska earn a trip to the 2013 Women’s College World Series during her senior season. However, Gabby’s academic achievements draw the most praise from her coaches, staff members and yes, her family.
"Gabby knew how important a diploma was when she first stepped on campus," Nebraska Softball Coach Rhonda Revelle said this week. "As a young girl, I don’t know if Gabby even thought college was a possibility. She had crafted her trade in softball and that earned her a scholarship. But I think her focus since she made the decision to come here was to get an education. From the first day, it was every bit as important to her as playing ball.
Small wonder the eyes of Texas family and friends were on Gabby Saturday, creating a bit of a twist. Why? Because now the eyes of Nebraska are on Gabby Banda, an inspiring Texan who was one of 55 Husker student-athletes among the nearly 2,000 UNL undergraduates and 800 graduate students who participated in Saturday’s commencement exercises at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Gabby had 176 hits in 226 career starts and a .281 career batting average.
Gabby Has Own Personal Rooting Section
This weekend, Gabby’s mother (Sally), father (Daniel), three brothers (Robert, Zenon and Adrian) and a sister-in-law made the trip to Nebraska to attend her graduation. The only other time family members could make it to Lincoln was last year on Senior Day at Bowlin Stadium. What an inspiring sight it is when the first person in a family earns a college degree and walks across the stage in an iconic arena to receive her diploma.
"It is undoubtedly the ultimate college highlight for Gabby Banda and her family," Schellpeper said.
Revelle agrees with that statement. “Being the first in the family to graduate is big, but what about her great GPA?” asked Revelle, who points out that Banda not only earned Big Ten All-Defensive Team and Third-Team All-Big Ten honors, but also made Academic All-Big Ten honors in 2012 and 2013. Her academic performance recognition dates back to Nebraska’s days in the Big 12, proving the priority has been there from the start.
With 128 career runs scored, Gabby shows her hustle against Florida.
Detention Internship Creates Opportunities
"Gabby already has job opportunities," Revelle said. "Her major was Child, Youth and Family Studies. She wants to go into social work and already has finished an internship at the detention center. She wants to pay it forward. She wants to help troubled youth."
Last year, a mother contacted the softball office and explained how a daughter had been through some tough things in life and was having trouble in school. Somehow, softball was the only glue that was holding her together. Gabby was already her role model and favorite player and the mother wanted to know if it would be possible to meet Gabby.
It was a perfect match because Gabby’s career goal is social work. “The girl was a fifth-grader and she started crying when she met Gabby,” Revelle said. “That moment meant the world to her. Gabby became her official role model, and they still stay in touch with each other.”
Gabby was proud to play in the Women’s College World Series in 2013.
Gabby Tries to Inspire Her Siblings, Too
Gabby Banda was Revelle’s first high school recruit from Texas in 18 seasons. She excelled almost equally in softball and basketball, choosing softball and accepting a leadership role the minute she arrived on campus. “Gabby tries to inspire her siblings, too,” Revelle said.
One of her brothers is a good soccer player and Gabby keeps encouraging him to stay with it, to work hard and to concentrate on his studies. Now that she’s blazed a new trail, Gabby wants to help others follow in her footsteps.
Who knows? Maybe someday a little brother will want to hug his academic counselor, too.
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