Success on Two Courts
Albanez achieves more than she imagined
By Dale Goodwin (’86)
Keani Albanez grew up with a basketball under her arm and shadowing her dad, an accomplished basketball coach in Santa Barbara, California. As an eighth-grader in 2007, she was the national Adidas Female Basketball Player of the Year.
Off the court, school was a struggle. All she wanted to do was play hoops. Albanez found sanctuary in the gyms with her dad and his boys teams.
“In the beginning, the boys wouldn’t pass her the ball because she was a girl,” George Albanez says. “So she’d stand under the basket and get all the rebounds, or dive and get the loose balls. That has really defined who she is now.”
Against the Odds
Keani’s dad recognized her talent, but with a learning disability and English as her second language teachers had little hope that she would attend college. Albanez took fewer classes so that she could get special help, attended night school to get the necessary credits to qualify for college admission, and took the SAT four times.
No one in her family had ever graduated from college. School was a daunting goal, but she desperately wanted to be the first in her family to achieve a degree. Gonzaga took a chance on her.
“When I made this decision (to attend Gonzaga) dad thought it was awesome. He loved the school, and the small classroom was important to him, even more than basketball,” she says.
In reality, he was terrified. “I wanted her to succeed in school and I wasn’t sure if she was ready for such a prestigious academic school like Gonzaga,” he says.
When the two arrived on campus for Albanez’s freshman year, Athletic Director Mike Roth took them straight to the basketball tutoring center. Roth said to the nervous dad, “She’s our kid. We’re going to make sure she is successful in the classroom.”
Mission accomplished. Keani has never had a semester GPA under 3.0.
All Grown Up
“To have watched my daughter accomplish what she has in the classroom and be on schedule to graduate in May, it has changed my view on private education,” George Albanez says, choking back tears of pride. She would show him other perspectives, too.
“I always called to motivate Keani throughout her college career,” he says. “When I saw a press release naming a pre-season all-WCC team and Keani was not mentioned, I called her and suggested she now had something to prove.”
Keani replied, “Dad, I am confident in my game and who I am as a player. There are more important things to me than making the all-WCC team, like classwork, studying, service projects.”
George realized then that Keani had gone from daddy’s girl to a bright, young, independent woman, just like that.
“He calls me, texts me, checks in the end of the week,” Keani says. “He misses doing the little things for his little girl now that I’m all grown up.”