Gillian Barfield is going places.
The women's basketball senior grew up in Phoenix. As a child, she played nearly every sport under the sun, from tennis to volleyball. Her parents were also triathletes, so she also participated in that as well.
When it came down to it, though, basketball became her passion. She cites her high school basketball coach as a huge influence on her future career.
“He was so awesome throughout my four years of high school,” Barfield said. “He’d come in at 6 in the morning to lift weights with me before school every single day. He would bribe freshmen boys to play basketball with me after school. He was definitely a huge part of that.”
Additionally, Barfield cites the physicality and contact aspect of basketball as a draw when comparing it to the other sports she played.
Coming to Gonzaga, the small, tightknit community feel spoke to her. She recalls walking around campus during her tour and remembering how friendly everyone was. Her first exposure to the team also pulled her in.
“First I met with all the coaches and really clicked, and I remember sitting in McCarthey with Assistant Coach Jordan Green, talking to him on my visit and felt a bond with him immediately,” Barfield said.
She is studying human physiology. During her time here, she’s had numerous mentors to help her grow.
GU Assistant Coach Craig Fortier, who’s been coaching the women’s basketball team for over seven years, highlighted her natural intelligence as a player, saying she’s excellent at coming up with smart plays.
“Over the last couple years, the most exciting thing is just seeing her growth and her progression as a woman, as a leader, as a teammate,” said Craig Fortier, one of Barfield’s mentors.
Barfield also cites former teammates that have since graduated as influences on her; namely: Zykera Rice, who boosted her confidence, Laura Stockton, who really pushed her and Katie Campbell, who she cites as a huge inspiration for her.
“It’s been a really fun evolution,” Fortier said. “I think one of the cool parts of coaching, in general, you get to see this evolution of players from freshman, to sophomore, junior, senior and I think she’s had an amazing transformation.”
Looking back on her career, Barfield fondly remembers her team’s victory against Stanford University — her favorite memory playing at home.
“None of us had even doubted we were going to lose,” Barfield said. “We were so confident, and when we finally did it, it was such an amazing win.”
She also said her team’s trip to Europe last summer, where they played against European teams and traveled to different countries like Spain, was a life changing experience.
Barfield’s journey on the team hasn’t been an easy one. She says it wasn’t the career one would imagine as a little girl, but that didn’t stop her from becoming the best she could be.
“It just led me to become a leader and develop my basketball game in different ways. I learned how to communicate with people in the locker room and I developed so many relationships,” said Barfield.
Playing in her final season as a senior during the pandemic has had its challenges.
“We aren’t supposed to see each other as much because of the contact tracing,” Barfield said. “I get to hang out with them at practice and a little bit in the locker room, but we don’t have the same movie nights we used to, or we used to do potlucks and all hang out all the time. That aspect is definitely different — trying to find ways to see each other safely so that we don’t get contact traced out has also been really weird navigating.”
Both her and her teammates have put in a lot of effort to stay safe and stay sane during these trying times.
Despite the difficulties, however, she says that watching people’s growth has been a highlight for her this season.
“It is crazy,” Barfield said. “Nothing is guaranteed. We’ve been so lucky — I mean, I think we only missed two games, one of them got rescheduled, so we’ve only missed out on two games which I think is really rare in this college environment, and I’m just really thankful that everyone on our team is following protocols and that we have super great protocols in place to keep us safe.”
After graduating from GU, Barfield is planning to continue her education to receive an accelerated bachelors in science and nursing. She then plans to become a nurse practitioner. Though her time at GU is coming to a close, Barfield’s career has been nothing short of stellar.
“Success for me is just showing up every day and giving your all, and I think giving your all looks different every day because some days are really hard, but showing up, even on those hard days, and giving the best that you can and being proud of yourself at the end of it,” Barfield said. “I think that’s what success is, and that’s something that successful people do. I don’t think it’s measured by the outcomes. I think it’s measured by the work you put in."