CollegeMontana Grizzlies


Lady Griz constant: Through changes aplenty, Carmen Gfeller climbs Montana's record books in decorated career

Posted at 6:15 PM, Feb 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-14 20:36:54-05

MISSOULA — Over the years, the Montana Lady Griz basketball program has seen a lot of change, but one constant through it all has been Carmen Gfeller.

The sixth-year senior utilized her extra year of eligibility and returned this season for one final run at Montana, a program and community she cares deeply about.

"There's not very many places like the University of Montana, there's not very many communities like Missoula," Gfeller said. "And so being able to play a game that I love surrounded by so much love and support has been a really wonderful experience, and I wouldn't have done it any other way."

The younger sister of former Griz men's player Brandon Gfeller, Carmen's career arc has been one of legacy building, growth and perseverance.

She was thrown into the fire as a true freshman in the 2018-19 season when she began to get acclimated to the college game as she played in 27 games.

But Gfeller opted to redshirt the next year for personal development, a decision that would be the catalyst for plenty of success to come.

"Probably the best decision I could have made for myself as an athlete," Gfeller said. "It just gave me a little bit more time to get my feet under me, develop as far as strength and skill and all of that. And so knowing that I'd put in all that extra time and work, I think really helped with my confidence and just helped me to start that COVID season off on the right foot. And from there, it just kind of snowballed."

Montana's Carmen Gfeller shoots a 3-pointer during the Brawl of the Wild between the Montana State Bobcats and the Montana Lady Griz at the Brick Breenden Fieldhouse on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024.

When she returned in the COVID-impacted 2020-21 season, Gfeller was ready to run. In turn, three seasons followed where she earned selections on all-Big Sky Conference teams. She was a third-team selection in 2020-21, a first-team pick in 2021-22 and a second-team honoree last year.

She's also started in every game she's played in since 2020-21, 101 in total, and has played in 128 games in her career.

Gfeller's steady presence has been paramount at UM, as during her time with the program she's played for three different head coaches. Though change was everywhere around her, she stayed put and became a leader the Lady Griz needed.

"I think a lot of it just goes back to the tradition and the culture of Montana athletics and this community," Gfeller said. "In a way, I feel like I've had everything that I could have gotten anywhere else. I've gotten to experience three different coaching staffs, essentially six different team rosters. The alumni community here is ridiculously supportive. And so just knowing that there's so many connections here, that people make the place. And so I think that's just a really big contributing factor to why I stayed.

"I've been able to connect with other alumni as well. And so I love the culture of just admiration and respect and appreciation that they have, even though we didn't necessarily play under Robin Selvig. They are very supportive and they make sure that you know how loved you are."

Gfeller will leave UM with multiple degrees. She got her undergrad in English teaching and a masters in public administration and policy. Initially planning to leave two years ago, her love for basketball has grown even more over time, so she stayed as she's connected with UM's current staff and team. When her career concludes, she aims to play pro ball overseas before embarking on a college coaching path.

"I think my love for the game has just grown my understanding," Gfeller said. "My IQ has just grown a lot since my time under Brian (Holsinger) and his staff and so building relationships, understanding the game. I'm not quite ready to be done with basketball. I keep saying that. And so just knowing that I would have that opportunity would be really exciting for me to pursue."

Her name is also dotted all over Montana's record books too, as Gfeller ranks fourth all-time in scoring with 1,503 points to her name and climbing. She's grabbed 613 rebounds and racked up 99 blocks in her career as well.

"If you told me at 18 that I would be in college til I was 24, I would have laughed in your face," Gfeller said with a laugh. "I never expected basketball to have this much of an impact on me. I think it really is the people that make the place."

She's a player who exemplifies the Lady Griz program, its history and tradition, who is grateful for everything along the way.

"There is so much gratitude here though, and the hard times made all of the good times worth it," Gfeller said. "I'm really grateful that I've had family in the area. I'm really grateful that I've been in pretty good health throughout my career. And I know that I have connections and relationships that will last me a lifetime. And I'm just really thankful for the experience, and it's really bittersweet, but I couldn't ask for a better community to be surrounded by.

"I'm super grateful for just the love and passion that this community has for Lady Griz basketball. I feel like I'm very grateful for the experience that I've had. It's been a lot of ups and downs. But overall, I’ll leave with a really great sense of accomplishment, a great sense of appreciation and just really thankful for the community of Missoula and all that Lady Griz basketball has brought for me."