FOXBORO — Nicole Gallagher admitted that she never would have left Bishop Feehan High School if not for a trifecta of injuries which caused her to miss nearly eight months on the basketball court.
After all, Gallagher and the Shamrock girls’ basketball team won the MIAA Division 1 state championship during March of her sophomore year in 2016.
But despite playing in almost every game that season and serving as a key defensive piece during the postseason stretch, Gallagher still wanted to make up for the time that she had lost due to a pair of ankle injuries, twice tearing ligaments in her right ankle, along with a stress fracture in her left foot.
“They were all back-to-back,” said the 19-year-old Gallagher, estimating that the injuries cost her about eight months away from the game. “It felt like forever.”
With the backing of her parents Michael and Kim, the Foxboro native reached out to Tabor Academy coach William Becker. The longtime coach of the program had originally tried to recruit Gallagher to the prep school after she finished eighth grade at Ahern Middle School in Foxboro.
At the time, the shooting guard decided against the school in Marion. Instead, she attended closer-to-home Bishop Feehan High where her two older brothers were already attending. The second time around, however, Gallagher knew what she wanted to do.
“That’s one of the best decisions I’ve made, definitely the smartest decision,” Gallagher said of her decision to reclassify and attend Tabor Academy, which was a tough choice for a 16-year-old at the time.
Gallagher made the 40-minute drive down I-495 to campus five days a week for classes, and sometimes six or seven trips if she chose to meet with teammates and play basketball over the weekend.
However, it all paid off. After a three-year standout career at Tabor, where she scored 1,073 points in three seasons, Gallagher will play Division I basketball at Bryant University this winter.
She committed in July 2018 and will join fellow incoming Bulldog,and Hockomock League standout Shannon O’Connor of King Philip Regional.
“The coaching staff was a big plus for me,” Gallagher said of one of her deciding factors in choosing Bryant.
“I really bonded with them, especially the head coach, coach Mary Burke. She’s great. She’s super intense like me. I like someone that has as much passion as she does for the game. Also, it was close to home, so, you know, I kind of wanted my parents to be able to go to the games.”
Gallagher said she had also been looking at schools in the Ivy League, Patriot League and the Northeast Conference, with her sights set on playing Division I.
Ultimately, Bryant offered her the best of everything — a high-level basketball program with strong academics.
Gallagher said that she will fondly remember her two years at Bishop Feehan.
“That was amazing,” she said of the Shamrocks’ postseason run, which was capped in Springfield along with teammates Katie Nelson, Lauren Mannis, Emma Forbes, Melissa Fontaine and others. “That was, you know, unfortunately, I haven’t replicated that (title) again, but that was an amazing feeling to win that. The team that year, that was special.”
Still, she has no regrets.
“It’s just such a different world in prep school,” Gallagher said. “My senior year, we had six girls who are going to play Division I. That’s something you really can’t find anywhere else.”
Gallagher also noted how she played one of the nation’s highest-ranked prospects, 6-foot-5 center Aliyah Boston, twice in the New England Prep School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) finals. Boston, who is bound for the University of South Carolina, and her Worcester Academy squad defeated Tabor two consecutive years in the NEPSAC title game.
“I always had fun playing basketball at Tabor, so it’s all a good memory, but my senior year especially,” Gallagher said. “We just had good connections with the team, good chemistry. It was just fun to play when people were selfless and they don’t care about how many points they have it’s all just about winning, winning, winning.”
And winning they did.
Gallagher and the Seawolves won the ISL in both her junior and senior years after playing an independent schedule her sophomore season. Tabor went 56-10 during the last three years with Gallagher starting at shooting guard, posting undefeated records (13-0 in 2017-18) and (10-0 in 2018-19) each of her last two years in the ISL.
Gallagher was voted Tabor Team MVP her senior year while garnering first-team All-NEPSAC and All-ISL. She shot 40.3 percent from long range her senior year and averaged 16 points per game. It followed her 13 points per game as a junior. Gallagher was equally crucial on the defensive end, guarding the opponents’ best perimeter player, with 5.7 steals per game.
“No one spent more time in the gym working on their game,” longtime Tabor Academy coach William Becker said of Gallagher. “She is such a special player and a huge part of this program. She has the best motor and work ethic of any player I have coached in my career so far.”