Canada Basketball’s best and brightest women’s prospects converged at Humber College last week ahead of the FIBA World Championships this summer.
The assessment camp held at Humber’s gym facilities from March 27 to April 1 welcomed the top Junior (under-19) and Cadette (under-16) women’s players in the country, with players flying in from as far as Newfoundland and Labrador, and British Columbia.
Fifteen-year old cadette Amy Mazutinec’s proud parents came on their first trip to Toronto from the tiny town of Stirling, Alta., to support their daughter.
“We don’t get much access to her and they keep them locked in pretty tight, but she texts us at the end of every night,” said father Darren. “She’s tired, she’s learning a lot, and it’s been a good experience.”
Mazutinec says the Canada Basketball camps have helped elevate her game every day.
“In Stirling, I’m the biggest girl so I could do silly things and get away with it, but they’re precise on every action you do here and that helps me a lot,” she said.
Dartmouth, N.S., native and junior Daneesha Provo also came a long way to attend the camp, but unfortunately got injured during the first day of drills.
“We were doing sprints and on the last one, I pushed it too hard and I guess I moved the wrong way and pulled my hamstring,” she said.
Provo’s still soaking up all the experience and coaching on offer in the camp though.
“I love the whole atmosphere here and the support I get from Canada Basketball,” she said.
“Everyone always pats you on the back and congratulates you and motivates you to push yourself. It’s good meeting all the new girls and just playing at a different level of basketball,” said Mazutinec, who aspires to play in the NCAA and the Olympics someday.
Provo has already played in the competitive NCAA with the Clemson Tigers this season and sees Canada’s under-19 team as the next stepping-stone towards a pro career.
“I definitely want to go to the WNBA and hopefully play for the Canadian Olympic team,” she said, citing star WNBA guard Diana Taurasi as her role model.
Canada Basketball women’s Mike MacKay supports the coaching staff and looks after the technical direction of the camp.
“The main objective is development,” he said.
MacKay says Canada Basketball looks at four pillars when analyzing talent: physical, mental, social-emotional, and finally, the ability to play the game itself.
“On the physical of course, tall and long is good but you also look for that athlete who has good stamina, who’s got strength, good speed and power. On the social-emotional, we look at their leadership ability,” said MacKay.
“On the mental side, can you handle adversity? And basketball, it’s the one we can grow the most,” he said. “It’s not just who can score but can you rebound, can you hold the ball?”
Cadettes’ co-head coach Jodi Gram emphasizes those four pillars every day of the camp.
“At the youngest age group (under-16), it’s all about identifying talent across the country and bringing them together at a really high level,” she said. “It’s here that we start to teach consistent principles and help build way more depth and breadth in their talent so we can put together our final team.”
Intensive drills focused on offensive tactics and concepts of play help clean up minor issues in the Cadettes’ game.
“Because we’re throwing a lot of information at them, we want people willing to take feedback, who want to show growth, who have a passion for the game,” Gram said.
And the key to make all this work is a great training environment.
“Humber is an amazing partner,” said Gram.
“The facilities are great, we have three full courts that are FIBA regulation which is phenomenal,” she said. “We’re able to use score clocks on all of them, the support staff is always gracious and super helpful. The food’s amazing as well, so we are very lucky to have them supporting our training facilities and I think it’s going to help us.”
Duaine Bowles, head of Humber varsity operations, says Humber has enjoyed a long and productive partnership with Canada Basketball.
“We have some of the best facilities in college sports, especially when you add in therapy and the HPC (High Performance Centre) we have available for Canada Basketball,” Bowles said. “It’s a pretty good deal for them and it’s also a pretty good deal for us.”