Yale-Bound Senior Credits Irvington Hoops Success with Fostering Her Maturity
By Tom Pedulla—
Grace Thybulle will never forget the trepidation she experienced when she joined the Irvington girls’ varsity basketball team as an eighth grader.
She was still feeling her way in many ways – on the court, in the classroom, in social circles.
“You are finding who you are, trying to fit in,” Thybulle recalled.
She credits Coach Gina Maher and Barbara Constantine, Maher’s long-time assistant, with helping to transform her into the accomplished Yale-bound senior she is now.
“Because of basketball, I am a confident person,” Thybulle said. “I am confident in my abilities, not just on the court but also as a person.”
Thybulle praised the atmosphere Maher and Constantine have fostered, one in which players come to treat everyone in the program as family while meeting high expectations. Irvington reached the state finals in each of Thybulle’s first two seasons before winning it all when she made a major contribution as a sophomore.
“It makes you feel valued,” Thybulle said of the tradition-rich program. “They know so much about basketball, but they also know so much about being powerful women.”
According to Thybulle, she has achieved a 4.4 grade-point average, one of many reasons she was heavily recruited by a large number of colleges and universities, including most members of the Ivy League. She committed to Yale last August before the recruiting process could become even more intense.
The 6-3, 190-pound Thybulle has made steady strides on the court. She poured in 16 points and was the tournament’s Most Valuable Player when Irvington thumped Section 5 champion Midlakes, 71-38, in Troy, N.Y., to win its sixth state championship under Maher in 2019. She seemingly improves with every game.
Maher describes Thybulle’s progress as “incredible.” That feeling of being lost on the floor is long gone.
“She sees the whole court and this is something that emerges as you grow into the game,” Maher said. “She is a very intelligent young woman, and she has a very good basketball IQ at this point.”
Over time, Thybulle developed into a greater offensive and defensive force. When her team needs a big basket and she is intent on scoring, she can be nearly impossible to deny. Opponents are constantly aware of her when she is playing defense with her ability to either block or alter shots. They will often settle for a poorer shot rather than challenge her.
“I think one of the biggest improvements she’s made is her physicality, her foot movement, her differentiating between outside and inside shots and being able to do both,” Maher said. “Her moves to the basket have improved incredibly.”
Thybulle is using her pandemic-abbreviated senior season to focus on enhancing her leadership skills. “The path I’ve always taken is being approachable to my teammates and expressing how much I care about them because I think we are more successful when there is that positive affirmation and acceptance,” she said. “It just makes people perform better.”
Thybulle made only two overnight visits before deciding on Yale. “Leaving that visit, I just knew that was where I had to commit,” she said. “I was just so in love with the people. I love the coaching staff. I’m just super excited about how I will fit in there.”
She plans to major in environmental engineering.
Maher has no doubt that Thybulle will continue on the same successful path she blazed at Irvington.
“I think Grace can do anything she wants to do. She’s a very strong young woman,” Maher said. “Whether it be athletics or academics or social issues, she works very hard and in a positive way.”
As one magnificent journey approaches the end for Thybulle, perhaps an even greater one will soon begin.