Gaines gains confidence after receiving Big Ten conference honors
On a chilly Saturday evening, the MSU women’s basketball team downed the University of Nebraska at the Breslin Center, 93-73. With the season in full motion, the starting lineup is beginning to form with two freshmen sliding into the lineup. One of those is redshirt-freshman forward Victoria ‘Coco’ Gaines, who has been showing she’s an asset when on the court.
Gaines scored six points against Nebraska, which includes her 3-pointer that was the first of eight during the game. She totaled five rebounds, one assist and a steal in the match. Gaines said becoming a consistent starter hasn’t phased her. The rookie said she tries not to think about starting because it can make her more nervous, but becoming more confident, improving every game and giving her all on the court is what she focuses on.
“I’m trying to get where I was in high school, like a more of a stretch forward that can shoot the ball outside, like at the three, and drive,” Gaines said. “Just basically having my defender move more since they’re bigger. I just think since I got my confidence back for college games it’s finally coming back to me, like I can do this stuff.”
Recently, the forward was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week after her performance against Illinois. Gaines had her first career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, a career-high in both categories.
At the beginning of the season, Gaines’ future on the court was up in the air after the early success of sophomore forward Hana Vesela. However, after sophomore forward Jenna Allen chipped her tooth, Gaines was able to step on the court and showcase some of her talents. Head coach Suzy Merchant said it’s good seeing Gaines play at the level they know she can, adding she likes what she sees on the court.
“We really like what she brings defensively and rebounding wise, she can cover a guard and handle the perimeter type post player, she can defend on the block, she’s a good rebounder,” Merchant said. “She’s probably our best position help guy, she’s taken more charges than anybody. She’s long, she’s lanky. I think she’s getting more confidence as she’s continuing to play.”
During her first year at MSU, Gaines had to redshirt because she wasn’t healthy enough to play at the college level yet. After Gaines tore her ACL going into her senior year of high school, Merchant and the rest of the staff thought it would be best to wait until she could play at 100 percent. Wanting to play the best she could at the faster college level, Gaines used the redshirt to get stronger for the game she loves.
“We redshirted her last year, just to try and get her knees healthy, she’s had two ACLs in high school,” Merchant said. “She was a little bit rusty, you know, now that she’s played more she’s getting more confident.”
Moving forward to the rest of Big Ten play, Gaines said she is looking forward to beating highly- ranked teams and getting better as a team. The Spartans will face off against the Ohio State University Buckeyes the next time they step onto the court. The match is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Jan. 10 at the Breslin and will be televised on Big Ten Network.