The University of Manitoba Bisons women’s basketball team is introducing some new names to the roster, and they are ready to do their part.
Jenilyn Monton, 17, Caitlin Ticzon, 18, Claire Harvey, 18, and Christina Posthumus, 18, all played in the Winnipeg area last season, and in 2010 they all played on the provincial team together.
"It’s a big step," said Monton, from River Heights. "It’s a lot to get used to from high school basketball because it’s so demanding and really strict. It’s a high level and you have to compete, it’s not like high school at all."
Co-coaches Michèle Hynes, 25, and Randy Kusano, 60, said they chose the rookies because they can see them benefitting the team.
Hynes said Monton is a guard coming from a very good basketball program out of Oak Park High School.
"Just her ability to read the floor and distribute the ball," said Hynes. "She was the best, in my opinion, in the province last year. So we’re really excited for her to contribute a lot early and give us some depth in the point guard position."
Harvey said no one is learning the game of basketball anymore at the CIS level.
"Everyone knows the game, and everyone is good at it," said Harvey, from Fort Richmond.
Hynes said because of Posthumus’ performance with the provincial team, she really stood out to be recruited.
"What stood out with me is how she stood out at nationals last year," said Hynes. "It wasn’t on the scoresheet, but it was the little things. She plays defensive really well, she’s a good teammate, she can run the floor and when given the ball, she can score."
Ticzon is originally from Flin Flon, but completed her last year of high school at Fort Richmond Collegiate.
"I want to soak in all the basketball knowledge that I can," said Ticzon. "In a small town you don’t get any of that, so I’m constantly around people who know the game and it helps me learn a lot faster."
Coach Kusano said Ticzon has shown a lot of commitment to the game.
"Caitlin made a big sacrifice last year, moving from Flin Flon into the city to play at a higher level," said Kusano. "That was really huge. It just shows you her commitment to get better."
Though it was intimidating at first, the rookies have become used to the higher level of play thanks to friendly veterans on the team, said Monton.
The Bisons rookies agree though that when they meet an opposing team, it will be a new experience.
"You don’t know what to expect, you haven’t seen the players that are out there," said Harvey. "Just seeing from (our) team, you know that they are all going to be really good."
In addition to the multiple practices each week and, soon, the upcoming games, all four of the young players have started university courses for the first time.
Monton sees heading to practice as an escape.
"It’s kind of our sanctuary," said Monton. "Especially with these girls it makes it so much easier."
Ticzon finds she sleeps well at the end of the day.
"It’s tiring," said Ticzon. "You spend all day at class concentrating, and then you come to the gym and do the same thing, so when everything is over you’re pretty tired."
Harvey said getting on the court is relaxing for her.
"When I get on the court it just relaxes me," said Harvey. "I just forget about all the school stuff… It’s something we know. At school you are always learning new things."
Hynes said Ticzon and Harvey played well together last season at Fort Richmond Collegiate.
"They both have a really good commitment to the sport," said Hynes. "They’ve both had some challenges that have made them really appreciate it. Plus they are both at the ‘sponge’ stage, they just want to learn, which makes them really fun to coach."
Both Hynes and Kusano said they chose the girls because they know they will contribute to the team one way or another, adding they don’t play girls based on seniority, but rather on skill and talent.
"We’re expecting a little bit more success on the court (this season) whether that comes immediately or that comes with a little bit of time to develop as a group," said Hynes. "We’re just going to be patient with it."