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Gabrielle Carbajal, an athletic inspiration to many

Believe it or not, Gabrielle Carbajal didn’t want to play basketball as a six-year-old girl. She wanted to play soccer. But, 15 years later she is thankful her father pushed her to stay on the court because she has become a role model for her younger siblings and one of her communities, the Latinx community.

“My parents are my biggest supporters,” Carabajal said. “They have always told me to focus on school and sports. In high school, they told me not to get a job because they wanted me to focus, and possibly get a scholarship for basketball.”

After attending Rancho Alamitos High School, Carbajal played at Cypress College in Cypress, California. She was offered a few basketball scholarships before Humboldt State head coach Michelle-Bento Jackson did everything she could to prove to Carbajal that the HSU community was one she would excel in.

“I remember back to the recruiting process. It came down to her deciding
between Humboldt State and a school in Texas,” Bento-Jackson said. “It was just convincing her that this was the right place for her, and all I can say is I feel very blessed and honored that I had the opportunity to coach [Carbajal] for the last two years.”

With two years of hard work and dedication to the HSU team, a huge accomplishment was announced just games before the end of Carbajal’s collegiate basketball career.

Gabrielle Carbajal shoots a free throw during the last conference game of the season, at Lumberjack Arena on Feb. 27. | Photo by Skye Kimya

During the week of February 17, 2020, Carbajal was the third player on her team to join the NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Statistical Leading Board. Carbajal was recognized as the 26th in the nation with her +2.16 assist/turnover ratio. More than 200 women are in competition for the NCAA nationally ranked spots.

“One primary reason for [Carbajal’s] constant development and growth is her hard work,” Bento-Jackson said. “She is an individual who puts in extra time and she has given herself an opportunity to be successful and continue to improve.”

Carbajal is admired by three younger sisters and one younger brother, who all play basketball too. The next sibling in line has followed in the footsteps of the HSU athlete as they started their collegiate basketball career at Cypress College as well. Carbajal shared that she currently wears the number 22 because her sister recently tore her ACL, so she represents her lost year on the court.

“I am very proud of her and all of her accomplishments so far,” said Ester Carbajal, Gabrielle’s mother. “[The bar] has been set really high. My second oldest really looks up to [Gabrielle], so I know she will continue to impress all of us.”

Gabrielle Carbajal has not only represented her family but her Latinx community as well. According to 2016 statistics, only 3.5 percent of Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) players are Latina. Being a collegiate woman basketball player of Latinx descent is inspiring to many, and encouraging to younger generations.

“I think it is a great honor to just be able to represent that side of the community,” Carbajal said. “If there’s any words of encouragement I could give, I would say just to keep following your passion no matter what.”

As Carabajal’s mother said, she has set the bar very high and it is clear that her accomplishments and inspiration have not gone unrecognized.

“I think she is a great role model for the Latinx community and just in general,” Bento-Jackson said.

“In our sport of women’s basketball, how many Latina’s are there playing collegiate basketball? Not only is she representing her culture and her family, but to be in the position she has worked so hard to be in, I think she just speaks volumes.”

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