Beneath the foggy mirror in a makeshift locker room no bigger than a storage closet sit 11 women, their wide eyes affixed to an overdressed basketball coach who is delivering a pregame speech that is equal parts inspiration and four-letter words. The scene plays out at colleges across the country each night, but on this rainy evening inside a dimly lit Bay Area junior college gymnasium, it serves as prelude to a debut unlike any other in the sport's history. When the focus of the 12-minute pep talk pivots to this topic, the eyes of 10 18- to 20-year-old women â?? including one deaf player and another woman a few inches shy of 5-feet â?? focus on the one Mission College player who has yet to play this season. There near the door sits the oldest (50 years old), tallest (6-feet-6, 230 pounds) and most muscular person in the room: Gabrielle Ludwig. "Come out and be Gabrielle the player," head coach Corey Cafferata tells her. "You worked hard to get here. This damn team in here, everyone has your back!" Ludwig nervously runs her hand over the sock approaching the tattoo on her leg. She has long been eager yet apprehensive about this moment.
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