Thibault’s Journey to the Starting Lineup

Senior guard Carly Thibault’s life revolves around basketball. At 5’5” she may not be the big­gest player on the court, but she has the biggest passion and has emerged as a leader of the wom­en’s basketball team.

No matter her role, whether it’s starting or coming off the bench, she goes all out each and every game. Her long range jumpers are what she’s known for. To date, Thibault has 154 three-point field goals in her college career.

“A three-point shot for us, that’s our dunk,” said Head Coach Jenny Palmateer. “She’s hit some really big (shots) where the game has been touch-and-go or it’s been close and the threes can be such back-breakers.”

Thibault comes from a basket­ball family. Her father, Mike, is a long time basketball coach, both in the NBA and WNBA. He’s cur­rently the head coach and general manager of the Washington Mys­tics. However, it would be unfair to assume he’s the reason Carly got into playing basketball.

“He was never the type to force me into playing,” said Thibault. “I did a lot of sports growing up. I actually was a gymnast for a long time, but it turned out that I loved basketball best and he made a rule with me at a young age that if I wanted to work out with him then I had to go to him; he wasn’t going to come to me and push me if I didn’t want to do it.”

Coming from East Lyme, Con­necticut, Thibault won a Con­necticut State Championship as a junior in high school and was nominated for the McDonald’s All-American team in 2009. Continuing her basketball career, she found her way to MU.

“Once I came here I fell in love with the campus and in love with the passion that the basketball program had for winning and be­ing successful,” said Thibault.

Thibault has played in 30 or more games each year at the University, helping the Hawks to appearances in the NEC Cham­pionship game the past two sea­sons. While playing time hasn’t always come easy, Thibault has solidified herself as a worthy starter this season. Palmateer says it’s getting tough to take her out of the game. Success is ev­erything in Thibault’s eyes and if the team doesn’t make it back to the NEC Championship, the sea­son will be a failure.

Hard work and commitment have gotten Thibault to this point. Each offseason, she dedi­cates her time to improving an aspect of her game. Whether it’s her shot, her ball handling, her free throws or defense; anything to polish her game and help her become a complete and consis­tent player. She finds pick-up games with friends from home help her improve.

“Playing against bigger, stron­ger, faster [players] is always go­ing to make you better,” Thibault said. “I’ve really taken my sum­mer workouts to heart.”

Thibault has started the past 15 games and has shown consis­tency on both ends of the court. She grabbed nine rebounds against St. Francis of Pennsylva­nia and scored 21 points against Central Connecticut State, both career highs. She’s also made four three-pointers in a game on four separate occasions this year, all coming in games where she started. For Thibault, it’s easier to get in rhythm and have consis­tency when she’s starting as op­posed to coming off the bench. Still, she’s ready to embrace any role Palmateer may have for her.

“She really cares a lot about the success of the team,” said Palmateer. “A huge credit to her to be ready when her number’s called. She goes above and be­yond; usually the first one in, the last one to leave.”

Basketball isn’t the only thing Thibault has success in. She was recently named to the Capital One Academic All-District 2 Team for the second straight sea­son. Carrying a 4.0 grade point average as a psychology major, she finds time management to be the key to her success on the court and in the classroom.

“A lot of times it’s easy to just want to watch TV or relax,” says Thibault. “Sometimes you have to know what your priorities are and manage your time well in order to get your work done and get extra time in on the basket­ball court.”

The extra time proves invalu­able. Practice, drills, competi­tion, or games, Thibault is al­ways learning and expanding her play. It’s helped her earn the con­fidence of her coaches.

According to Palmateer, Thibault’s leadership has been a huge part of getting the team headed in the right direction. Thibault has also become more of a vocal leader with the ability to see things as they’re happen­ing.

“In case I’m missing some­thing, I can always rely on her to be able to pick something up here or there,” Palmateer said. “I think she has the unique abil­ity to help get people where they need to be.”

After four years and two dif­ferent coaching staffs, Thibault feels she has gained valuable ex­perience and knowledge to lead to her future. Ideally, she’d like to be a coach and wants to pursue a master’s degree in sports psy­chology.

“The psychological aspect of the game is a really big part and I think it’s underestimated a lot,” said Thibault. “I think (bas­ketball) will always be a part of my life and I think that’s where I’ll find the most pleasure in my work in the future.”

It makes sense. Thibault is very close with her father and they both share a love of basket­ball. He’s helped mold her into the player she’s become and she’s hoping to take that knowledge into a coaching career of her own.

For now, she’s focused on the season. The goal is an NEC Championship. The Hawks are currently third in the conference with six regular season games to play.

“The biggest thing for us is we just need to focus on playing to­gether with a lot of energy and the rest will come, the basketball stuff will come,” Thibault said. “When you play with energy and a lot of heart, it’s easy to feed off of that and we’re a much better team.”

It’s been an uphill battle for Thibault to be on the court in crunch time. Now she is an im­portant piece for the overall success of the Hawks down the stretch.

PHOTO COURTESY of MU Photography