Unsure of what lies ahead, Lupardus maintains positive attitude for Penguins

Gabby Lupardus isn’t entirely sure what the future holds.

As it pertains to her playing days, Lupardus, a redshirt sophomore at Youngstown State, hopes to learn more following Friday’s surgery to repair a torn meniscus in her left knee and for a bone graft.

It’s the same knee that Lupardus twice suffered a torn ACL in during her decorated prep career at Wyoming East High School — and that same ACL may again be torn.

“One of my scans showed it was completely torn, but another scan showed it may not be completely torn,” Lupardus said. “The status of my ACL is not 100 percent known, so it’s kind of a wait-and-see type thing.

“I would love to get back to playing, but realistically, I’m not getting my hopes up. After this surgery and with whatever diagnosis comes from my ACL, I’m going to work my hind end off and see how far I can go fitness, agility and basketball wise to see if I can keep up as a Division I basketball player. If I can’t, I’ll be realistic, but if I can, that’s what I’d love to do and that’s the goal.”

Should Lupardus’ ACL again be torn, that will be repaired at a later date.

For now, however, the 5-foot-8 guard is trying her best to do something she’s become all too familiar with — keep her spirits high and contribute in a coaching role while she’s unable to play.

“I kind of feed off of other people,” Lupardus said. “Seeing my friends succeed and enjoy what they’re doing, I kind of live through them. Youngstown does a great job of keeping me in the loop and keeping me involved. I help with practice every day and help with drills. That’s how it was in high school when I tore my ACL — I was on the bench helping drawing up plays.”

Lupardus was a Class AA first-team all-state selection as both a freshman and sophomore at Wyoming East. She was named captain of the all-state team during her sophomore campaign, when the Warriors also claimed a state championship. However, Lupardus suffered her first torn ACL in the opening game of her junior season.

After returning to the court as a senior, Lupardus was again captain of the AA all-state team and led the Warriors to the state tournament. In a quarterfinal victory over Lincoln, however, Lupardus retore her ACL. Despite being unable to lead WEHS to another state title, Lupardus culminated her prep career as co-recipient of the Mary Ostrowski Award, annually presented to the state’s top girls basketball player.

“She was devastated and wanted to go out winning a state championship,” Youngstown State head coach John Barnes recalled. “I think she was concerned about her scholarship too with it being her second (tear), but we were committed to her regardless of what the health situation was like.”

Lupardus was forced to redshirt for YSU during the 2018-2019 season, before making her return to the hardwood last season. She played in 28 of the Penguins’ 30 contests, averaging 3.4 points, registering 26 assists and scoring 45 points over a five-game stretch prior to a nagging lower-body injury putting a restriction on her minutes the rest of the season.

“She had been off for a long time with the injuries and it takes time to get back in the flow of the game at the D-1 level, but you could see signs,” Barnes said. “Throwback is a great word to describe her, because she’s not flashy but she gets the job done and makes the players around her better.”

Gabby Lupardus directs the Youngstown State offense during a game last season. Photo courtesy of Youngstown State Athletics

Primed for a breakout sophomore season, Lupardus instead reinjured her knee during a November practice.

“I was jumping to tip the ball on a pass to the post for the girl I was guarding,” Lupardus said. “It was a simple thing I’ve done a million times.”

Now the Pineville native is trying to help her Penguin teammates any way she can as Lupardus stays involved in the program’s day-to-day activities.

“I try to bring the same energy every day,” Lupardus said. “I come into it very enthusiastic and I talk to my teammates and check in with them to see how they’re feeling. I try to be that mediator and I try to see things that maybe coaches don’t see in a locker room or players don’t see in a game.”

Although Barnes would certainly prefer to see Lupardus contributing on the court, the eighth-year YSU head coach appreciates the knowledge and positivity she brings to the Penguins.

“She’s a great person and she’d be a great person for young people to learn from and look up to,” Barnes said. “She’s kind of coaching from the sideline for us this year and learning the ins and outs of it. She’s kind of been a coach on the floor for us as a player and she’s just a great person to have around the program.

“I’d be shocked if she doesn’t end up being a coach,” Barnes continued. “I could see her winning a state championship in West Virginia as a high school coach. Write that down and we’ll see many years down the road.”

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