Wade Gebbers has always been big on fundamentals.
His life is a three-man weave of faith, family and basketball that’s carried him through four standout seasons at Whitworth University, and soon will carry him back home to Brewster with a family of his own.
That includes new baby daughter Riley, whose arrival last weekend coincided with another big win for the Pirates. Wife Kristina, a former Whitworth player herself, went into labor during a win over Pacific that clinched at least a tie for the Northwest Conference title.
Gebbers left at halftime and Riley was born early the next morning. Mother and baby are doing fine, while Dad is happily juggling fatherhood, a major in business management and the captaincy of another championship team at Whitworth.
“My first priority is to take care of my wife and baby,” Gebbers said earlier this week. “But I also look out for my teammates.”
Together they’ll try to take care of business tonight against George Fox. A win will clinch the Pirates’ fourth straight outright NWC title and home-court advantage in the conference tournament. Not coincidentally, that coincides with Gebbers’ four years as a point guard in the Whitworth Fieldhouse.
“Four years, it’s really flown by,” said Gebbers, who was raised on the farm and the hardwood back in Brewster, a small town with a big reputation for great basketball. That reputation was burnished by Gebbers’ father, Cass, who took Wade and older brother Clay around the country for AAU games.
Though two years younger than his brother, Wade played on the same teams. “I was the little guy,” Gebbers said, “but that really helped me play the game.”
And win. After a runner-up finish his freshman year, Gebbers helped Brewster to a state title in 2007. After two more state appearances and carrying on a “great tradition” at Brewster, he followed another: playing at Whitworth.
Cousin Johnny Gebbers had already made a mark for the Pirates. More importantly for Wade, family came first. “My brother was here, and he told me, ‘At the DIII level, you’re not going to get a better college basketball experience.’”
Even more than two NWC titles and an Elite Eight finish in the Division III tournament his sophomore year, Gebbers’ favorite memories are the two seasons in the same backcourt with Clay.
“I didn’t think I’d get to play competitively with him after high school, so that’s a great memory,” said Gebbers, who appeared in 21 games as a freshman. Parents Cass and Alycia were there, too, home and away. Gebbers figures they’ve missed perhaps a half-dozen of his 100-plus games at Whitworth.
“It’s incredible, the support I’ve had from family,” he said.
As a sophomore, he averaged 9.1 points and 3.4 assists. Even better, a minor injury put him in the training room, where he met his future wife. Kristina VanAlstine, then a freshman, who played at Whitworth for one season and part of a second before injuries shortened her career.
Clay Gebbers graduated in 2011, the same year longtime head coach Jim Hayford and top assistant Craig Fortier moved to Eastern Washington. Gebbers admits he was shocked “because we all liked Coach Hayford,” but gratified when the school sought the players’ input when choosing successor Matt Logie.
“We were excited, and we didn’t miss a beat in the offseason,” Gebbers said. The Pirates didn’t stop there, winning a third straight NWC title and finishing in the Sweet 16 of the Division III tournament. Gebbers averaged 12.8 points and 3.4 assists while starting all 30 games in a 26-4 season.
“In a lot of ways, he’s been the heart and soul of this team,” Logie said. “A lot of the team takes on his personality, his tenacity, his competitiveness and finding ways to win.
“Those are all things that define Wade as a player.”
Gebbers is also defined by his faith.
“I grew up in a Christian home, went to Sunday school and church my whole life,” he said. “But I’ve never been one to think that I’m going to pray to God to give us a win tonight, but I’ve always leaned on my faith for help in basketball, in life, school, whatever it is.”
Gebbers is the team captain this year, embracing the moment while not getting carried away by it.
“I want the pressure of everybody looking up to me, but I don’t feel like I have to be the only one,” Gebbers said. “But I want the pressure of having the ball in my hands on the last possession.”
The last possession of Gebbers’ career is sure to happen sometime next month. Graduation will follow two months later. After that, Wade, Kristina and Riley will move back to Brewster and work on the family farm.
“I’ve always had a passion for farming, especially with the cattle,” said Gebbers. “I really want to help my dad with that.”
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