The Cadette Women’s National Basketball Team has some big plans this week in Cancun, Mexico and a couple of Scarborough athletes, both from Pope John Paul II Catholic Secondary School’s senior girls squad, are being counted on to play vital roles.
The under-16 women’s Canadian team, which includes Pope John Paul’s Danielle Garven and Eternati Willock, who both also play together for the Advantage Titans, departed Sunday, June 16, for the five-day FIBA Americas Continental Championships. The championships are a qualifier for the world championships later this year.
The 2012 Cadette women’s team won a bronze medal at last year’s under-17 world championships for women in Amsterdam and is aiming to qualify and improve upon that mark this year; a result third year head coach Carly Clarke calls “a new level of accomplishment” for the program.
“We’ve got a very different group this year. Last year our positional strength was a bit different...we aren’t necessarily as strong in the paint from the post position, but we have nice length (size) and athleticism this year. I’m confident in this group.”
While this will be 16-year-old Garven’s first experience with the Canadian women’s national basktball program, Willock, 15, is the lone carry-over from the bronze medal-winning lineup of two years ago.
“Eternati was part of the experience two years ago so she’s going to bring some leadership to the group,” said Clarke, head coach of Ryerson University’s women’s program.
“She can impact the play on both sides of the floor. Great rebounder, great touch around the rim.”
As for Garven, who does most of her talking on the court, her size and shooting skills will be her greatest assets this week.
“A quiet personality, but she can impact the game in a couple of different ways. She fits in to our team environment very well,” said Clarke.
The fact the two Grade 10 students – both of whom played up this year for their senior high school program where they helped lead the team to the OFSAA championship game, settling for a silver medal – are familiar with each other’s play on the court will serve the Cadette team well in Mexico.
“We work well together; we’re like a dynamic duo,” joked Willock, who has an older sister who also plays competitively and a father who fared well playing university ball in Canada.
Willock, who only started playing basketball four years ago when her father signed her up to the Scarborough Basketball Association where she met Garven, is focusing on making an impact this week from a defensive standpoint.
“I definitely want to contribute more on the defensive end – rebounds, blocks and steals so I can create some opportunities for my team. I just want to provide for them and create some offence for my team.”
Garven, whose father played for the Centennial Colts’ basketball program, plans to keep it simple this week.
“Just work hard and represent my country in a good way.”
On the subject of her relationship with Willock, she noted: “Each year we play together we improve. We feed off of each other so if one is not doing well we pick the other one up.
“And we always know where the other one is going to be on the court, which helps out a lot,” she added.
Both girls, who plan to graduate in 2015, are already receiving scholarship interest south of the border.
The qualifying round starts Wednesday, June 19, against Venezuela.
The girls will play the following day against Puerto Rico followed by Mexico Friday.
It’s difficult to gauge the competition at this age group, said Clarke.
“You never know what to expect, but Puerto Rico we beat two years ago to win the bronze medal. Venezuela is always tough and Mexico is the tournament host so they’ll be looking to win at home. We’re not worried about them we’re really focused on what we need to do to be successful.”