The Gilbreath sisters always knew they wanted to play college basketball together.
When the sisters, senior guard Briana and redshirt junior guard Stefanie, looked at schools in Northern California during the recruiting process, they couldn’t agree on one they both wanted to play for. Once they got to Southern California, the only school on their radar was UCLA.
But once the sisters saw the UCLA campus, they knew it wasn’t the right fit.
Though they were done with the West Coast and were ready to head back to their home in Texas, their cousin, a club basketball coach in California, told them they should visit USC.
After taking their cousin’s advice, the Gilbreaths were sold on becoming Trojans. And so began their sister act on the women’s basketball team.
With Stefanie constantly battling injuries throughout her last few seasons on the team, the journey hasn’t been an easy one for the Gilbreath sisters.
“It’s been a real roller coaster, with all the injuries, trying to get back,” Stefanie said. “But everything happens for a reason, and I’ve had a great team be there with me. My team, trainers, coaches, my sister, my family — they have all been very supportive and I probably wouldn’t even be here without them.”
But after three years of sitting out because of various ailments, Stefanie is finally getting some playing time this season.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to play alongside her,” Briana said. “For me and her personally, it’s good for us. We get that feeling of being on the court just like we were in high school, and it’s a bond that really can’t be replaced.”
Stefanie also expressed happiness in being able to play alongside her younger sister again.
“There’s always been that one year when we don’t play together, but for it to be three years or two years, it was really weird,” Stefanie said.
Getting back on the court and reaching her full potential won’t come automatically for Stefanie, and she is well aware of the fact that she can’t do it alone.
“Now it’s starting to come together,” Stefanie said. “My teammates have been working with me to make sure I know all the plays. They have been helping me get back to what I know and how I played.”
With Stefanie back in action and Briana already a leading scorer for the Women of Troy, the Gilbreath sisters are certainly back in business. The idea of two sisters playing on the same college team isn’t unheard of, but it is rare. Even more rare, according to Briana, is leaving Texas to play a college sport elsewhere.
“Growing up in Texas, it’s all about sports in general,” Briana said. “Everyone loves sports. It’s really tough to get out of Texas. You have Texas A&M, University of Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor and all these different schools that try to get you to not leave Texas. It’s tough to leave the area and go somewhere else, especially California. It was a tough decision, but I think we made the right one.”
This season, which was rocky at first for the Women of Troy, brought with it the third-toughest schedule in the nation, according to RealTimeRPI.com, and some hard losses in the preseason. Regardless of the troubles USC faced at the beginning of its journey, recent wins — including a narrow victory over UCLA — have given the team new momentum.
“At first it was kind of rocky but we have to remember we played a lot of top-25 teams in the preseason,” Briana said. “We learned from our losses obviously, and we started off the Pac-12 pretty strong. We have really found our identity as of lately, and it is going really well.”
Now that Briana is in her last year and Stefanie is in her second to last year, the two Women of Troy share yet another goal for the future: to play in the WNBA. With such a long history of togetherness behind them, it probably wouldn’t be surprising to anyone if they played professional basketball as a duo as well.