Thursday February 14, 2013 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
Frontier senior Natalie Galus signs her letter of intent to play basketball and attend Daemen College. She’s surrounded by, from left: Frontier basketball coach Rick Mihalik, her father, Stan Galus, and mother, Nancy Galus. (Photo by Michael J. Petro)
Natalie Galus was on the cusp of making girls basketball history at Frontier and then in an instant, the star senior basketball player found herself relegated to being a spectator on the bench with a cast on her hand.
Twenty-six points shy of becoming the Falcons’ first girls player to reach 1,000 points, Galus broke her hand last month and was told she’d be out for at least three weeks.
Galus has sat out the past five games, four of which Frontier lost, and watched as her senior season began to draw to a conclusion.
So Monday (Feb. 11) became quite significant for Galus two-fold. First, she got that dreaded cast off and was cleared to play in the first of the team’s final two games remaining before the playoffs — one of those contests being Senior Night on Feb. 13, then later that same day, she signed her letter of intent to play basketball and attend Daemen College.
With such a big day for her to enjoy, the varsity’s four-year starting power forward is hoping that all of this frustration is now behind her.
“That was the worst part personally because I was so close to what I’ve wanted to do since freshman year and I couldn’t do it and had to wait,” Glaus said. “I’ve been very frustrated. The last three weeks, I’ve wanted to play so bad, but when I found out I can play (on Monday), especially for Senior Night (two days later), it was really important for me and I’m really glad I’m back.”
It’s not exactly how Galus scripted the moment happening when she first envisioned scoring 1,000 as a freshman while beginning to make her impact felt for Frontier but at least now she’ll have a chance to reach the mark and as a result, help her team get back on track.
Galus scored 20 points — and now is just six short of the mark — in a 50-33 win over Clarence. She was on target to break the mark in the next game against Holy Angels. If all goes as planned, the school will conduct a short ceremony and will present her with a milestone ball before a projected home playoff game on Thursday, Feb. 21, according to head coach Rick Mihalik.
“It’s been an amazing run for me, especially the last year or two when I’ve had to step up and be a leader,” said Galus, who began playing basketball at the age of 6 with the Hamburg Little Cagers. “I always looked up to the older players when I was a freshman and sophomore. This year, everyone looks to me, so I have to do my best and always work hard.”
Mihalik said no one is more deserving of a chance to get back on the court than the hard-working Galus. He said the mere presence of the influential Galus has made his job easier as a third-year head of the program.
“The girls on my team look up to her like no one else,” Mihalik said. “She is the hardest worker during the season and out of the season. A lot of the girls want to do the things that she does. They know the work she’s put in and look forward to putting in the same work. She’s definitely been a huge contributor to the program. It’s nice that it takes some weight off my shoulders.”
Mihalik has been impressed with the way Galus has worked to improve her outside shooting game. She’s now not only a physical force under the basket, but also can step outside to do some damage.
“She’s definitely turned into more of a shooting threat, especially from three-point range,” Mihalik said. “She’s always been a presence in the paint and has always been able to score — she attacks the basket, rebounds the basketball and is able to finish around the hoop. Now, she’s definitely extended her game and is been able to help us.”
That versatility, in addition to a unique athleticism for a power forward, should make Galus a good fit in Daemen’s run-and-gun system. Daemen head coach David Skolen was most impressed with her ability to play strong while still running the floor.
“She’s a very versatile player, which I think will translate well into the college game,” Skolen said. “We like to play an open-court, up-tempo game, and I think as a power forward who can run, hit threes and score inside, she will really fit in nicely.”
Galus chose Daemen after also considering Slippery Rock and Mercyhurst. She likes that she can stay local while still living out a dream by playing Division II basketball. Daemen is in Year One of a three-year process of becoming a full-fledged NCAA Division II program.
“It wasn’t that far from home, so if I really wanted to go home, I can,” said Galus, who will study Spanish. “I like that it’s a smaller school and they have the program I want to study. I really liked the team and it just really seemed like I would fit in. They have a fast break mentality and that’s how I play basketball.”
Natalie’s proud mother, Nancy, said she and her husband, Stan, have been to every game since her daughter’s been playing up on varsity and is happy to say she’ll continue to get that opportunity with Natalie remaining close to home.
“Ever since she’s been little, she’s really loved the game and really worked hard at it,” said Stan, who remembers a talented youngster moving up as an 8-year-old to play travel with a 10-and-under Buffalo Connection team.
Mihalik credits Galus for helping lay the building blocks for an up-and-coming Frontier program with many players now striving to put in the time to be at their best. But Galus’ work with them is not quite done.
Frontier went from 6-5 overall and 5-2 in ECIC I with Galus to 7-9 and 5-6 without her as the team heads into the final week of the regular season. Galus is hoping that getting back into the lineup and the return of another injured forward, Nicole Rockey, can help the team get on a run.
“Now that we’re back with a full team, we should be a really strong,” Galus noted.