How Vandebilt cheerleader Gemi Detillier transforms into a menace on basketball court

Chris Singleton
The Courier

Gemi Detillier admits that she is not the typical cheerleader.

The Vandebilt junior is a member of the cheerleading squad for most of the school year, but when basketball season comes up, she won’t be found holding pom-poms or doing cheer routines on the sidelines.

Detillier said she prefers being on the basketball court and diving for loose balls, shooting jump shots, dishing out assists and playing defense.

“I like cheerleading a lot and I’ve been doing it all my life, but when it comes to basketball, it’s what I love to do,” Detillier said. “I play with my heart and do my best.”

Detillier cheers during the school's football season and is on the competitive cheer team.

During basketball season she is a key leader for Vandebilt, which is one of the top teams in the Division II this season. Vandebilt (24-3) is the No. 2 seed in the LHSAA Division II playoffs and will play St. Thomas More in the semifinals at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday at the Alario Center in Westwego. 

Detillier is averaging 8.4 points per game, six rebounds, two steals and 2.4 assists. She scored nine points with three steals and assists each during a 68-33 win over Teurlings Catholic in a first-round playoff game on Wednesday.

“Gemi is actually the captain of our team,” Vandebilt girls basketball coach Jerwaski Coleman said. “What I love about her is she leads by example. When she is not leading by example, she is making others lead by example.

"She holds her teammates accountable to the point where if she gives a certain gesture, they know how to respond to it. The girls work well with her and they love her to death.”

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Coleman said people are often surprised by the play of Detillier on the court, especially due to her small size as a guard.

“She’s about 5-1 but plays like she’s 6-5,” Coleman said. “Nothing intimidates her. She really goes after it. She has a very high basketball IQ. That helps her out a lot because she puts herself in a position to be successful." 

Detillier said she loves proving people wrong when they question her size against bigger players.

“They think I’m small and can’t do much, but when they see me play, they are surprised by how tough and physical I play,” Detillier said. “When I get on the basketball court, that’s all I focus on is that game and how I can help the team come out with a win.”

Ellender's Sage Singleton (23) tries to move the ball past Vandebilt's Gemi Detillier (4) during a Jan. 18 game.

Coleman said Detillier helped the Vandebilt program grow into what it is today. She was there in the early years when the program struggled with losing seasons, but she is now enjoying fruits of their success.

“She has paid her dues,” Coleman said. “I think that’s why the girls really respect her so much. She was there when we were struggling a little bit. I love to see the smile on her face and the energy she brings with the rest of the girls.”

Vandebilt athlete Gemi Detillier (top) helps her cheerleading squad perform a routine.

Detillier has won a championship before in cheerleading. She was a member of Vandebilt’s Super Varsity Game Day Division II national championship team in 2021. The squad finished second in the Game Day Division II at the national championship this season.

Now she wants to help Vandebilt win a Division II basketball title this season. The Lady Terriers won their only state title in basketball in 2010.

“There were times when we weren’t the best, but we kept focused on our game and got better,” Detillier said. “Everything just came into its own this year. We are very good. We have a special bond and we play together. We all have each other’s back. It would mean the world if we can win a state championship this year.”

Reach Chris Singleton at 985-857-2213 or and on Twitter @courierchris.