WILMINGTON — The St. Elizabeth High School girls’ basketball team is a young bunch this season, with just two seniors and one junior among the 12 players on the roster. Two of the players are eighth-graders at the parish elementary school: Gabby Julian and Taylor Faulkner.
“They call me the little baby because I’m one of the youngest ones,” Julian said recently. “They don’t really say that about Taylor because she’s 6-1.”
Julian, however, decidedly smaller at 5-3, is not worried about being accepted by her older teammates. The Vikings are 4-1 in the early going, including a win over two-time defending state champion Sanford, and Julian is starting and contributing.
Julian, 14, admits to butterflies before her first high school game, a comfortable win over St. Georges Tech on Dec. 6, but it didn’t show. She hit her first three shots and finished with nine points, impressing her coach, Tom Ferrier.
“You don’t see it (nerves) in her play, you don’t see it on her face. And that’s a good thing because your opponents can sometimes hone in on that,” he said.
Julian, whose sister, Emma, is in fifth grade, is in her second year at St. Elizabeth after transferring from St. John the Beloved. When she enters the high school next year, it will make four generations of women in her family to attend St. E’s. Her great-grandmother, Barbara Manista Vaughn, was in the first graduating class in 1944. Her grandmother, Barbara Vaughn Sama, graduated in 1965, and her mother, Kim Sama Julian, is a member of the Class of 1985.
Her mom was excited when Julian chose St. Elizabeth. “She wanted me to come here because this is where she went for 12 years.”
Her father, Michael, is the business manager at Padua Academy, and Julian said he was a little disappointed she wouldn’t be attending that school. “But he knows that everybody has their own fit in a school, and here feels like home to me.”
Julian started playing basketball in third grade, and by the next year she was a member of the Wilmington Tigers AAU team. Last year, her first at St. Elizabeth, she started for the Vikings’ top varsity CYM team and was invited to play with the high school summer team.
Ferrier has been friends with Kim Julian since their high school days and had seen Gabby play a few times. He said the coaches knew she was good enough to make the team as an eighth-grader, both physically and mentally.
“She seemed to be a bit more mature for her age. We asked her to play with us in the summer league. She fit in very well. We realized at that point that she could probably get a lot of serious playing time with us. So it was a no-brainer,” he said.
“She fits in perfectly here. The older kids love her; she loves the older kids. It’s been a completely smooth transition.”
As for her play on the court, the coach calls Julian the team’s best outside shooter and most legitimate threat from long distance.
Before she got to St. Elizabeth, Julian didn’t even know she could play high school ball as an eighth-grader. (Playing an extra year in high school is allowed at schools with both elementary and secondary grades.) She’s happy she found out.
“It felt natural. I think playing up was probably a good decision for me because I’ve already learned a lot this year from the coaches that I have. And the team is great. It’s a great group of girls,” she said.
Julian is confident that the Vikings will just get better as the season progresses and could surprise some people come playoff time. As parents know, little babies tend to grow up really fast.
The Vikings are back in action on Jan.3 against Ursuline Academy at the St. E Center.