When Oak Harbor senior basketball player Abbie Gezo was asked to describe herself in three words or less, perhaps the most fittingly-succinct adjective she could come up with was "quiet."
While "quiet" is not exactly the type of leadership quality one is looking for on a team that's trying to claw its way out of a 7-14 overall hole (3-11 in Sandusky Bay Conference play) maybe a "quiet," no-nonsense kind of player is just the foundation Coach Tom Kontak needs in this "me-first" era.
One who keeps her head down, mouth shut, and buys willingly into system. One who will bring her lunch pail to the court every single night.
All of which also describes Gezo. Through four whirlwind years, she's faced head-on the adversity of at least five dizzying coaching changes, including basketball and volleyball.
"In basketball, during my freshman year, we had Coach (Dick) Heller, and then during my sophomore and junior years, we played for Coach (Brad) Hemminger, and now of course, for my senior year, we have Coach Kontak, so we've always kind of had these constant changes going on all around us," shares the 17-year-old Gezo.
"Coach Hemminger and Coach Kontak, the two of them have two very different coaching styles, so I think that's what's making this year a little different for us again," continues the 5-9 post player, "because Coach Kontak. . .he just approaches every single game, and every single practice with so much intensity.
“But I think the way our team has handled it, and has been able to keep going through all the changes, is we've just made sure to keep playing together. I'd say we've just kept working hard, and stuck together no matter what, and it's helped us to stay close as a team.
"I've just been really excited to get this season really started, and to get the games underway," adds Gezo, "I'm just so ready to play basketball with these girls again, and I can tell you, during our practices and our last couple of scrimmages, we've been working really, really hard. We want to prove to everybody that we're not a sixth-place team, like they've had us in the pre-season poll. We want to prove to everybody out there that we're better than that.
“We have a lot of competitive spirit as Lady Rockets, and I think Coach Kontak and his staff bring that same spirit to the court. They're committed to our team. They're dedicated to the sport of basketball, and to helping us win at it. And like I said, they bring a lot of intensity to our practices and our games.
"I think that's what we as a team enjoyed the most about Coach Kontak and his staff so far," she says. "They've helped make this change easier, and I'm ready to just leave it all out on the floor. That's the legacy I want to leave for the younger players coming up. To just work hard during every single practice, every single game, and every single play. To always give it your best, and to never quit, no matter what obstacles you face. That way when they look back at it all later, they'll never have any regrets."
Gezo generated a solid 11.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game as a junior, which also netted her Oak Harbor's "Most Improved Player" award. At season's end, she earned both all-SBC Honorable Mention and all-District 7 Second Team honors.
This year, as the (coaching staff) Tom Kontak, Art Eli, and Johnny Kontak era begins in Oak Harbor, Gezo is among a solid core of senior leadership provided by Makayla Carpenter, Maria Boers, and Erin Bryant.
They already have the Rockets off to a promising start on the strength of two performances which saw Gezo pour in 19 points and grab seven rebounds in a big win over Edison, and then 13 points and five boards in another important tilt versus Huron. She also went 9-of-10 from the charity stripe in the win over the Tigers.
Oak Harbor is looking good early at 2-2, which includes a close 52-50 loss to a perennially strong Bellevue team that ended the Rocket’s season in the tournament last year.
"Any quality program is only as good as the people who are in it," chimes in Kontak, who was the architect behind a Genoa girls hoops dynasty from 2004-10.
"First and most importantly, Abbie comes from a good family. Like many of the girls, she is very good in the classroom, too. She is a hard worker. She is a leader in her own right. And when you have seniors like Abbie, and Makayla Carpenter, and Maria Boers, and Erin Bryant to work with, it does help make the transition smoother," Kontak continued.
"I think it's harder for the players to adjust to the coaches than it is the other way around," concludes Kontak, "but Abbie has been impressive in her play. She has great skills as a post player, she has worked hard at her game in the past and continues to work hard day-after- day to get better, and she just wants her team to have great success. Quite frankly, all the girls have given a nice effort. Again, the transition is made that much smoother when as the coach you are working with good character people."
A two-sport star at OHHS, Gezo has had to endure her fair share of discontinuity throughout her volleyball career, too, going from Coach Megan McGuire to Coach Stephanie Hammond to even “Coach Mom” at some point. Yes, Abbie's own mother, Jacki, once paced the sideline for the OHHS volleyball program.
Gezo thrived, to the tune of being named All-Sandusky Bay Conference honorable mention from her sophomore to senior years on her way to garnering her school's Rocket Award, and District 6 Honorable Mention accolades for her sophomore and senior campaigns as the Rockets' setter.
This past fall, Gezo came up with a stat line that reads: 30 kills, 37 blocks, 39 aces, 424 assists, an 87.7 attack percentage, a 90.3 serve percentage, a 94.2 pass percentage, and 99 percent when setting.
In the classroom, too, the Graytown product built a 3.8 cumulative GPA. She has designs on perhaps attending college in her own backyard, at maybe Owens Community College, where she would like to play volleyball.