Fremd graduate Gorecki reflects on her career at Duke
This past Monday night, Haley Gorecki did not expect to be back in her hometown in the Northwest suburbs.
One of the most decorated female basketball players from Palatine should have been in Durham, N.C., with her Duke University women's basketball team.
The Blue Devils would have been gathered as a team to hear the seed they received in the NCAA women's basketball tourney and where they were headed for regional play later in the week.
Instead, Gorecki was at home with her collegiate basketball career completed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Not that I didn't want to see my family,' Gorecki said with a chuckle. "But I would have been preparing for a regional now and I know my parents (Adam and Denise) would have made the trip wherever we were playing. To be honest, best parents ever."
Adam and Denise Gorecki made it to almost every home game Haley played the last five years (she is a redshirt senior who is now taking graduate courses) at Cameron Indoor Stadium."
They have seen their daughter fight through four surgeries, including two on her hip, a shoulder and a foot.
Despite it all, they got to see Haley enjoy a remarkable season.
On Feb. 21, the 6-foot-1 guard was the only student-athlete nationally averaging over 18 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.
Gorecki became the sixth Blue Devil to reach 500 points in back-to-back seasons, leading Duke to an 18-12 record with her 18.5 scoring average.
Her feats hardly went unnoticed.
Gorecki is one of five finalists for the 2020 Ann Meyers Drysdale Award for the top shooting guard in the nation.
It is one of five categories (center, point guard, power forward, small forward) that selects the top women's college basketball players in the country.
You can vote for each category by visiting hoophallawards.com. Voting runs through Friday.
This year's winners are scheduled to be presented by the Hall of Famers at The College Basketball Awards live on ESPN2 from Los Angeles on April 10.
"It's definitely an honor being on that list," Gorecki said. "I know a bunch of people who have won these awards so just to be in running is pretty cool."
It's also pretty cool that Gorecki actually enjoys two other phases of the game even more.
"I like assists and rebounds," she said. "I like to make the right pass, or a simple pass to set up my teammate for a score or getting a defensive board that helps us get the ball and get up the floor."
Fremd fans certainly remember Gorecki in that capacity as she helped lead the Vikings for four years while becoming the program's second all-time leading scorer with 2,127 points.
Gorecki was the catalyst for Fremd's first (2015) of three trips to the Class 4A state title game in six years under coach Dave Yates.
The Vikings won their first state title two weeks ago.
"My parents and I were always looking up their scores this season," Gorecki said. "And I know a couple of the girls. I played with Hannah LaBarge, the sister of Grace (a standout junior on this year's team).
"And I've been in contact with Yates all the time. I was so happy. If any coach deserved to win a state title, it's coach Yates."
If anyone deserved to be able to close out her collegiate career, it was Gorecki.
Just the fact that she bounced back from all the injuries was an accomplishment in itself.
Now she is looking forward to playing in the WNBA or professionally overseas.
She never expected to wait things out in her Palatine home where she is finishing her three graduate courses (coaching, forensics and music) online.
She did her bachelor's work in business and psychology.
"I was going to do my graduate work in business but then I thought it would be too stressful so I just took these three graduate classes for fun," she said.
And she was certainly having fun until COVID-19 ended her collegiate time on the basketball floor.
"It's just so unfortunate," she said. "Obviously. it's not how our seniors wanted it to end. But it is what it is."
So now it's on to professional basketball and then Gorecki will decide her career path.
"I'm playing basketball first," she said. "After that, if I could stay in sports some way that would be really cool.
"I definitely know there will be no coaching for me. I'm not a patient person so I wouldn't want to start out doing something that I wouldn't be enjoying."
For now, she can enjoy being a finalist for the prestigious national award.
"It definitely means a lot given all the work I've put in since day one," she said. "Obviously coming off all the surgeries, I never really knew what would happen. But I just keep saying this has been a blessing."
Meanwhile, she is taking in stride the fact that she lost the final weeks of her collegiate career.
"I don't think this is going to ever happen to anyone again," she said. "To be honest, it's just a rare occasion."