Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Basketball a family affair for Gebisas

UW women’s basketball stars Ebba Gebisa and Lello Gebisa have won a state championship and played against some of the NCAA’s elite players, but the talented sisters have not forgotten their grudge matches in the family driveway.

“Those driveway games are the most brutal games you’ll ever play,” Lello said. “It taught us a lot and toughened us up, and they were just a lot of fun playing.”

Using the skills they developed in their driveway battles, Ebba and Lello have become major contributors for the Badgers. The sisters have played alongside each other in the starting lineup in 15 of Wisconsin’s 17 games this season, posting impressive numbers.


Lello leads the Badgers in rebounds (6.5) and blocked shots (1.9), ranking second on the team in assists (1.7) and fourth in points (8.9). Ebba has started every game this season, averaging 5.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 0.7 3-pointers.

Ebba has also emerged as a defensive stopper. This season, she has contained Penn State’s Kelly Mazzante and Ohio State’s Kaity Matter, two of the top players in the Big Ten. Mazzante, who leads the conference in scoring (22.6 points per game) and recently passed Indiana legend Calbert Cheaney to become the Big Ten’s career scoring leader, managed just 15 points on 4-19 shooting against Ebba’s defense.

“Ebba Gebisa is one of the most intelligent student-athletes in the Big Ten,” UW head coach Lisa Stone said. “Her intelligence and her study of the scouting report allows her to be in position to contest shots. I give Ebba a ton of credit for her defense against Matter and against Kelly Mazzante. Those are two great players that had subpar shooting performances, and I think Ebba’s defense had a lot to do with that.”

Before coming to Wisconsin, the Gebisa sisters enjoyed tremendous success at the high school level. Playing with their sister Kuleni, Ebba and Lello led West Lafayette High School to the 1998 Class 3A State title.

“Playing with both of my sisters in high school and winning the state title with my sisters was definitely a memorable experience,” Ebba said. “Basketball has always been a part of our family. It is something that the entire family has always enjoyed.”

After receiving numerous high school accolades including three team MVP awards, two all-area selections, three all-conference selections and a spot on the 1998-99 America’s Best Super Squad as one of the nation’s top 50 high school seniors, Lello graduated as West Lafayette’s career scoring leader with 1,185 points.

The high school standout was recruited by Duke University, which currently holds the No. 1 ranking in the ESPN/USA Today poll. After failing to break into the starting lineup in two seasons at Duke, Lello decided to transfer to Wisconsin for the opportunity to finish her college career on the same team as her sister.

“I was really excited,” Ebba said. “I pushed it from the start, but I was totally supportive of whatever she decided.”

Lello’s transfer has reunited one of the top sibling duos in the Big Ten and benefited the entire Gebisa family.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Lello said. “Our whole family has loved it. Our parents don’t have to split basketball games; they can come to one game and see us both play. [Ebba is] one of my best friends, so it’s always fun playing with your friend.”

Basketball has always been a family affair for the Gebisa sisters. In addition to their sister Kuleni, who played with Ebba and Lello at West Lafayette, their father is also a former basketball player.

“My dad was always there to put in his two cents, and I think now that we’re more mature we really appreciate and respect what he has to say because he does know the game and I think he knows me as a person,” Lello said. “When I have a game that I didn’t play too well, he knows what to say and he knows what I need to do. I definitely talk to him, regardless, after every game.”

Though she wore No. 30 in high school, Ebba now wears No. 25, which was her father’s number in his playing days.

“I picked 25 knowing that it was my father’s number,” Ebba said. “He was always very supportive, and it was something that I could do for him.”

Ebba’s father, now a professor, taught her and Lello to value academics as well as athletics. It was a lesson they learned well. Last season, Ebba was named Athletic Board Scholar with the highest cumulative grade-point average on the team (3.918). In the spring semester, Ebba posted a perfect 4.0 GPA and was named to the Dean’s List for the fourth consecutive semester.

“[Our parents] love basketball and they know we love basketball, but they told us many times if they didn’t think we were putting our full attention to academics they wouldn’t hesitate to not allow us to play sports anymore,” Lello said.

After college, Ebba plans to attend law school and Lello hopes to land a job in consulting or pursue a career in professional basketball overseas. Regardless of their career choices, the Gebisa sisters will always share a bond that extends well beyond the basketball court.

“I love my family more than I can say in words,” Lello said. “I have three sisters who are pretty close to the same age as me, and they are truly my best friends. I know no matter what, they’re always going to be there to hold me up.”

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