WHS’s Gerber has family in mind with Briar Cliff signingWORTHINGTON — From mom’s promised trips to McDonalds in kindergarten to a birthday cake with icing spelling out “Briar Cliff” for six-year-old sister Addison, everything in Mackenzie Gerber’s life, even basketball, has involved family. Talks of traveling far away from home were officially signed away Friday, as the Trojans floor leader signed with Briar Cliff University in Sioux City to play basketball.
WORTHINGTON — From mom’s promised trips to McDonalds in kindergarten to a birthday cake with icing spelling out “Briar Cliff” for six-year-old sister Addison, everything in Mackenzie Gerber’s life, even basketball, has involved family. Talks of traveling far away from home were officially signed away Friday, as the Trojans floor leader signed with Briar Cliff University in Sioux City to play basketball.
“I feel complete,” Gerber said. “I couldn’t go to college and not play basketball. I couldn’t stop playing.
“Ever since I was little I said I was going far away to Texas or something. Everybody says that, but, when it comes down to it, you just don’t want to leave (your family).”
It all started with a golden arch and has now continued with a pen and paper.
“I started in kindergarten,” Gerber said. “I liked it because my parents would take me out to McDonalds every time after a tournament, so I would be like, ‘Mom, am I playing basketball this year?’ so I could I get McDonalds.”
Gerber played four years of varsity for the Trojans, capping her career with a senior season in which she averaged 17.8 points and nine rebounds per game, finishing with 499 points, 251 rebounds, 140 steals (a single-season school record) and 144 assists.
“She was a real big part of what we did,” WHS coach Eric Lindner said. “She led us. She understood what needed to be done in a situation and whenever we needed a big shot, she would come up with it. I’m just happy to see her keep playing basketball. I think she has a lot of good basketball left in her.
“I’m happy to see her going, but sad trying to figure out how we’re going to replace her.”
Gerber was fearless on the court, finding ways unimaginable to get to the basket. No shot was too difficult, no assignment was off limits and no reward could match winning.
“I like winning and, with basketball, it was the thing I was successful in,” Gerber said. “I’m not a 4.0 student and volleyball is fun, but basketball was my thing.
“In gym, I can’t even lose. I just don’t like to.”
It was the competitive edge and the want to do anything needed to win in Gerber which brought Briar Cliff knocking.
“We really value kids that play extremely hard,” Briar Cliff head coach Mike Power said. “What stuck out with me right away with Mackenzie was that she played really hard and was a hard-working kid.
“She can play small forward, power forward or even the perimeter. The ability to do multiple things, plus she’s a hard-working kid fits well with what we do. We’ve led the nation in scoring in two of the last three years, so we like play up-tempo, which is something she can do.”
An athlete who enjoys a sport will remember the glory days of it. An athlete who loves winning will remember everything about it. When talking about one of two trips to state Gerber made, she remembers two things about her first time stepping on the floor of Williams Arena.
“I was in for 43 seconds,” Gerber said. “I played 43 seconds and made three turnovers.
“Hey, I knew I wasn’t going to score, so I had to get on the stat sheet somehow.”
From 43 seconds her freshman season at state to leading the Trojans to the state quarterfinals with a 20-8 record and playing nearly every minute at state. The second trip to state didn’t just bring more minutes on the floor for Gerber, but a final decision.
While at state, Gerber surprised her family with a cake that said her college of choice on it. It was perfect timing for her sister’s sixth birthday.
“It was Addison’s birthday during the state tournament, so she thought the cake was for her,” Gerber said. “We had to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to her with a cake that said, ‘Briar Cliff,’ on it.
“I wanted to make it special…it was Kaitlin’s idea.”
Like any sibling a little embarrassed about a decision, Gerber took the blame-the-older-sister route. Kaitlin is Gerber’s 19-year-old sister, who will be living down the road at rival Morningside College. Considering Kaitlin runs track, Mackenzie is just a simple jog away.
“I’ll love being in the same town as Kaitlin,” Mackenzie said. “Kaitlin loves it too.”
Mackenzie is already beginning to nudge the rivalry, which could make family gatherings a bit more interesting.
“When I was touring Briar Cliff, there was a sign that said, ‘Beat Morningside,’ but someone crossed it out to make it ‘Eat Morningside,’ so I sent her a picture,” Mackenzie said. “She told me to shut up.”
For a girl, who strayed away from no shot for the Trojans, Friday’s signing may have seemed like a wide-open layup for Gerber, but it was a culmination of years of work and Gerber showed some actual nerves.
“What If I break through the paper?” Gerber said was a thought she had Thursday night. “I spelled my name right, so that is a plus.
“I was nervous all night last night. But I didn’t fall out of my chair.”
Gerber may have been nervous about the actual signing, but having family nearby was an easy choice.
“I had five or six schools that I was choosing between, but this one stood out because it was more personal,” Gerber said. “Plus, I’ll be by Kaitlin.
“That helps a lot.”
Daily Globe Sports Editor Chris Murphy can be reached at 376-7328.