Western Colorado senior Gabie Doud was at practice in Lubbock, Texas when she heard the news.
Western Colorado was set to play West Texas A&M on March 13 in the NCAA Division II tournament. But Doud, a graduate of Ballard High School, did not get to play that game.
On March 12 the NCAA made the decision to cancel its remaining winter and spring championships based on the evolving COVID-19 threat.
“Our coach gathered us to break the news that we were not going to be able to play,” Doud said. “It was heartbreaking. All I felt was stunned, hearing about athletes all over the world going through the same thing I am.”
Doud arrived at Western Colorado this past season by way of Winona State in Minnesota. After graduating from Ballard, where she was part of three state tournament teams from 2014-2016 and a two-time all-state selection, Doud played three years at Winona State.
In 2019 Doud averaged 10.2 points and 5.6 rebounds at Winona State coming off the bench. But she didn’t feel the program was the right fit for her.
“I chose to transfer for personal reasons,” Doud said. “Originally I was not sure if I was going to continue playing basketball. The most difficult moment was deciding to move 13 hours away from home to go somewhere completely new to me.”
But the decision to head to Colorado paid off.
“The biggest reward was taking a chance to transfer and having it be a great experience,” Doud said. “Transferring to Western is a gift that keeps on giving and I couldn’t be more happy with where I spent my last year of eligibility.”
This past season at Western Colorado Doud started 19 games. The 5-10 power forward averaged 9.3 points and 5.6 rebounds in helping the Mountaineers go 20-7 before the season was cut short.
“Gabie is an ideal forward at our level because she can score at a high percentage in the paint and from the perimeter,” Western Colorado coach Lora Westling said. “She has phenomenal touch and toughness at the rim and rhythm from outside. She proved to be a difficult match up for a lot of our opponents. Outside of her ability to score the ball, she has a high basketball IQ and enthusiastically studied our systems from the moment she got on campus to the moment our season ended.”
Westling lauded Doud for her desire to learn.
“One of the best things about Gabie is that she is sincerely inquisitive and wants to know the ins-and-outs of everything,” Westling said. “One of the side effects of that is that I have never had a player ask more questions than Gabie Doud. Our team meetings usually concluded with our staff finishing a statement or scouting report and immediately turning to Doud for her question. We knew that hand was up before we ever turned around.”
Doud acknowledged she could get a little carried away picking her coaches’ brains at times.
“I think one embarrassing moment for me is when I asked our assistant coach, Todd Stutzman, if we were shooting one-and-one free throws while I was on the court,” Doud said. “Women’s basketball doesn’t have one-and-one free throws.”
But Westling gladly puts up with it.
“Gabie is the kind of person you want to have around all the time,” Westling said. “She is easy to talk to, funny and authentic. She gained her teammates’ trust almost immediately.”
That’s what made it so hard when she had to tell Doud and her teammates the bad news regarding the fate of their season.
“Obviously we had been following the situation closely that day, but it all became real when we had to look our players in the eyes and tell them they wouldn’t have a chance to compete on the national stage,” Westling said. “That was our program’s first time at the tournament and it felt like standing in line for six months and then having the door slammed in your face. With that said, we understood the big picture. We focused on being grateful for the opportunities we had to that point and the opportunity to stay healthy.”
Doud, a communication arts major, plans on interning with the Western Colorado athletic offices after graduation. She wants to remain involved in women’s basketball and is leaning toward the coaching side, but is exploring other options.
As much has not getting to finish her final season hurts, Doud said it has all been worth it.
“The positive thing I get out of the COVID mess going around is that I got the chance to have my heartbroken because I chose to keep playing basketball for my last year,” Doud said. “To love and enjoy a sport so much is worth the heartbreak that comes with it when it’s over, and that is something I’ll always remember moving forward and taking risks in life.”