Women’s Basketball: Byrdy Galernik’s path from the end of the bench to a dependable scorer


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Byrdy Galernik dribbles the ball. The senior guard has become Northwestern’s top scorer off the bench.

Charlie Goldsmith, Reporter

Women’s Basketball

Byrdy Galernik prides herself on being the best conditioned player on the team, but early this season the senior guard didn’t play enough minutes to get tired. Galernik averaged 0.6 points in six minutes per game, and most of the time she played was in garbage time.

Galernik’s role has drastically changed since the season started, leading coach Joe McKeown to compare her to Celtics legend John Havlicek as a spark plug off the bench.

In a near upset over No. 16 DePaul on Dec. 1, Galernik scored 16 points and followed that with a 13-point game in a win over Boston College three days later. In both games, star junior guard Lindsey Pulliam was the only player who scored more points than Galernik.

Heading into the Wildcats’ (7-1) game against UT Arlington (5-3) on Monday at Welsh-Ryan Arena, McKeown said Galernik has solidified a consistent role in the rotation.

“She can play in the open court really well offensively, and she can break people down,” he said. “She’s uncanny in her array of shots. She can hit floaters, she hits threes, and now she has a real scorer’s mentality.”

It’s been a long road for Galernik getting regular minutes at NU. She never played more than 10 minutes per game her freshman season, serving as the backup to All Big Ten guard Ashley Deary. After Deary left, Jordan Hamilton joined the team and took over the starting point guard spot the first game of the season.

Galernik has bounced in and out of the rotation over the last three years, and she fell out of it completely at the end of last season after shooting 29.7 percent from the field. Galernik barely played in last season’s NIT run, and she started the 2019 season in virtually the same position. As the fourth player off the bench, she lost minutes to Jordan Hamilton, Veronica Burton and Lauren Satterwhite.

McKeown told Galernik she had to become a better ball-handler and more confident three-point shooter if she wanted her minutes to increase. The entire team pushed her to be more aggressive, but she struggled translating her success in practice to in-game situations, especially her long range shooting.

“Last year I struggled with my three point shot when I was in the game,” Galernik said. “In practice, I felt fine, but when I was in the game last year I wasn’t confident enough. But I’ve worked on my three-point shot more to the point where I know I can shoot off the dribble.”

McKeown described Galernik as one of the team’s most consistent workers over the offseason. Determined to get more playing time her senior season, Galernik developed a practice routine that she now calls a superstition.

Galernik arrives exactly 30 minutes before practice officially starts and rotates between stationary layups, midrange bank shots and pull-up jumpers from the right and the left side. It’s worked out well so far, and Galernik is shooting a career-high 54.3 percent from the field.

With Hamilton missing four games with an injury, Galernik has played the best basketball of her career. Against the Blue Demons, she went six-for-eight from the field and scored from all three levels, including two off-balanced contested floaters. She followed that with another double-digit scoring game against Boston College, and Galernik did most of her damage in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

Galernik had just four points in a blowout win over Dartmouth last Saturday, and Hamilton played ten minutes in her return to action. Even after Hamilton is back to full strength, though, McKeown said Galernik proved she can be a reliable bench option bench going forward.

“She’s had a great start to her senior year, and she’s earned it,” he said. “She really worked hard this summer, and I think we’ll see her playing like this all year.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @2021_charlie