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Women's college basketball notebook

How Harvard women’s basketball’s Gabby Anderson is showing off her artistry, on and off the court

Gabby Anderson (right) has started her first 15 games in her rookie campaign with the Crimson, before injuries have sidelined her in recent weeks.Harvard athletics

Harvard first-year women’s basketball player Gabby Anderson has art supplies scattered around her dorm room. Paintbrushes and shoes sit on her desk, paint boxes rest on top of her closets, artwork adorns her walls, and depending on the day, a canvas or two will appear on the floor.

“It’s very colorful,” Anderson says.

Anderson’s basketball prowess helped lead her to Harvard, but the sport isn’t her biggest claim to fame. She also runs Graffiti by Gabby, using her artistic talents to create custom shoes and paintings for some notable sports figures.

Anderson’s first significant client was former Atlanta Dream coach Nicki Collen, who reached out in 2020 for a shoe design dedicated to Breonna Taylor that she could wear as part of the WNBA’s Black Lives Matter movement. Anderson also has painted shoes for Seattle Storm star Sue Bird, Celtics forward Grant Williams, and recently Patriots defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. She also has produced canvas collections for Wal-Mart and SLAM magazine.

The 5-foot-11-inch guard has kept business booming while also starting in every Harvard game until recently being sidelined with a knee injury.

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“The good thing about art is that no matter what you’re doing with it, you have to at some point use a creative outlet for yourself,” Anderson said. “I make the best shoes when I feel good about what I’m creating.”

Anderson typically receives shoe orders via Instagram direct messages; her mother, Celia, helps organize the process. Anderson constructs mock-up ideas on her iPad with ProCreate and translates them to the shoe.

A pair of customized shoes for the Patriots' Deatrich Wise Jr.Celia Anderson

Last April, Anderson signed an NIL deal with WME, an agency that has been a game-changer for her reach. She has attended marquee events such as Wimbeldon to network and grow her spotlight.

Signing with WME, she said, “that’s kind of when I felt that I leveled up another step. I kind of feel like I’m doing all these things, but it made me more passionate about what I was doing, if I’m fully honest.”

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Anderson has found her pathway as an artist while keeping up with her family’s impressive basketball history. Celia played at Arkansas; Celia’s cousin is former Magic star Nick Anderson, and her uncle, Ron Anderson, played in the NBA for 10 seasons.

Anderson averaged 4.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.4 steals across 15 starts prior to her injury. Harvard coach Carrie Moore appreciates Anderson for her poise, high motor, and defensive versatility, which allows her to guard point guards and centers.

“To have a first-year that doesn’t really act or perform like a first-year is such a blessing,” Moore said.

The Celtics' Grant Williams had these designed by Graffiti by Gabby.Celia Anderson

Opponents often recognize Anderson as “the girl that does shoes.” Young girls have messaged Anderson on social media to show support and ask to meet her at a game. Anderson is quickly recognizing the power of her platform as a young leader.

“Honestly, with work and confidence, you can do whatever you want,” she said. “And I’m just so proud that there are kids who feel that way about me and think of me as a beautiful role model to do whatever they want to do.”

Celia watches her daughter balance high-level workloads as an artist, a Harvard student, and a basketball player. The two have an especially close bond. Celia raised Anderson as a single mother in Gahanna, a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. Her full-time job is director of business development for the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, and her part-time job is aiding Graffiti by Gabby.

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Seeing Anderson make multiple dreams come true at once is heartwarming for her mother.

“All of those nights that you’re on your knees and you’re praying, and you’re like, ‘I just need something from somewhere for something,’ it’s almost like answered prayers to see her here now,” Celia said. “You breathe a sigh of relief and you’re like, ‘We beat the odds. On every account, we beat the odds.’ ”

Going gets tough

Boston College (13-9) has lost four straight games and is slumping as it reaches the heart of Atlantic Coast Conference play. Coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee noted after a 67-57 loss to Clemson Sunday that her young players need to expect physicality in a tough league. ”They have to start adjusting and understanding that they can’t play for the foul,” she said. “They have to play through it and play strong, and really, everybody has to move.” ... Neither Boston University nor Holy Cross has blinked yet in their Patriot League tours de force. Both squads are 8-0. Their first head-to-head matchup is Feb. 15 ... After starting the season 1-12, Merrimack has won three of its last four games.