As the University of Dayton women’s basketball team was making the bus ride from the University of Rhode Island’s Ryan Center to the airport in Warwick on Wednesday night after UD’s 47-37 victory over the Rams, some of the Flyers players were checking the book to admire the efforts of teammate Jenna Giacone.
Not the scorebook – though the senior guard had scored 10 points – as did point guard Araion Bradshaw – to lead the Flyers to their 20th victory of the season and an 11-1 record in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
The players all were perusing the children’s book Giacone has written – “Gabby’s Got Game” – that was published three weeks ago by Archway Publishing.
“The main character is Gabby, a young girl who is obsessed with basketball and wants to compete with the boys,” Giacone said. “In the beginning, though, she’s very shy and stays to herself. She has to overcome her internal anxieties and fears.
“Through something that happens in the book, she ends up dominating and the boys want to play with her because she is that good.”
The book can be ordered online at: archwaypublishing.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/838076-gabbys-got-game.
It also can found on Amazon: amazon.com/gp/new-releases/books/3404.
A few Flyers fans already brought copies to games at UD Arena earlier this month and had Giacone sign them.
Wednesday at Rhode Island, Giacone’s older sister, Gabby – from whom the title character draws her name – showed up with a surprise.
She’s a fifth-grade teacher at Latham Ridge Elementary in North Colonie, New York, and she’d already read the book to her class.
She then asked her students to write letters to the author, all of which she brought to the UD game and gave to Jenna.
“After the game, when we were sitting in the back of the bus on the way to the airport, a couple of my teammates went through some of the letters with me,” Giacone said. “Mariah Perez and Maliya Perry were in the seats behind me and they read them, too.
“Those letters had some of the nicest comments and there were a lot of little kid questions on the illustrations and why Gabby and her dog Roscoe did things.”
By Thursday afternoon, Giacone said she’d read every letter: “They brought smiles to me and tears, too. I had a few girls write and say they wanted to go play basketball at recess the next day.
“And boys wrote back saying they totally agreed and would love for girls to come and play.”
She said that’s just what she’d been hoping to hear:
“I wanted this book to end up in the hands of young girls AND boys. I wanted them to know basketball isn’t just for boys. If you’re a girl, just go out and compete, too.”
‘She thinks outside the box’
Gabby and Jenna Giacone – who are just 15 months apart – grew up in Delmar, New York, a suburb of Albany.
“We were two girls – both of us maybe tomboys – who loved all sports growing up,” Giacone said. “We were always on the court or the field playing with boys. And we both chose basketball in our college careers.”
A 6-foot guard, Gabby played at Northeastern and scored 1,071 points and pulled down 688 rebounds.
Jenna is the only woman to be a part of the UD program for six seasons. She’s the last of former coach Jim Jabir’s recruits. She gained an extra year because a foot injury cut short her freshman season and the following year she redshirted to recover.
Like all other college players, she also was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA because of the way the COVID-19 pandemic impacted college basketball the past two seasons.
She’s now played in 117 games for the Flyers, scored 866 points and grabbed 280 rebounds.
She’s currently eighth in the Atlantic 10 Conference – and No. 1 on the UD team – in three-point field goal percentage (40 of 107 for 37.4 percent.)
She’s had several big games this season, including 28 against Toledo, 21 versus St. Louis and 20 against Richmond.
As they’ve long shown, the Giacone sisters have “game,” as well.
Jenna said the idea to write a children book came to her “randomly” a few months ago:
“I wanted a sports book where the girl was the main character.
“If you Google ‘children’s books and basketball, it’s a boy who’s the main character every single time.
“That gave me my inspiration and one day I just sat down at the computer and the words were flowing. Afterward, I thought I might have something and I got some good feedback from a few close friends, so I sent it to six publishing companies.”
She said a few responded and she chose Archway Publishing.
She worked with a freelance illustrator to come up with the visual images that those letter-writing fifth graders often mentioned.
UD coach Shauna Green said Giacone didn’t tell anyone she was writing a book until she was done:
“All of a sudden, she said, ‘I just wrote a children’s book’ and I’m like ‘What?’ Who goes and finds time to write a children’s s book in the middle of the season?
“I’m really proud of her. This shows you what type person she is. She’s always trying to do things you wouldn’t think of doing. She thinks outside the box.”
Green told how Giacone is working on getting a patent for a device she and a Flyers’ assistant thought up to free a basketball stuck between the backboard and rim.
“She’s talked about getting on Shark Tank,” Green said.
“She’s kind of a mad scientist,” added Ross Bagieski, the sports information director for women’s basketball.
Gicaone laughs at such talk, but it’s also why she kept the book idea low key until she had it published.
“I figured everybody would be like, ‘Oh God! Here’s Jenna with another extravagant idea.’”
But she said now that many of her teammates have seen the book, they are ordering them on line for their little sisters and brothers, nieces, nephews and cousins.
‘This kind of came out of nowhere’
Giacone has been on the Dean’s List at UD and already has her undergrad degree and one master’s degree. She’s now working on another.
Once the season is over, she plans on making some appearances to present her book.
She’s committed to visit her sister’s fifth-grade class in New York and may do a book signing in her hometown, as well.
The Dayton Metro Library has contacted her about reading her book to children and some area schools want her to visit, as well.
“This has brought a lot of joy to me,” she admitted quietly. “Knowing my work is out there in other people’s hands is pretty incredible.”
So will there be another book? Could Gabby end up in a series?
“We’ll see how this goes first. I mean I’d never thought of myself as an author before. I’ve always been a math person.
“This has kind of came out of nowhere. If you’d told me a few years ago I was going to do this, I would have laughed and said ‘No way.’”
She’s now learned a lesson herself.
When it comes to writing, she’s “got game,” too.
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