When the Kootenay regional girls team takes the court in Surrey at the B.C. Summer Games in July, Castlegar’s Michelle Matson and her teammates will be ready for battle.
Having played on the Kootenay team at the 2010 summer games, Michelle has a pretty good idea of what to expect and is eager to lead her team against the best players in the province.
“I remember everyone was a lot better than us,” said Michelle. “There were no East Kootenay girls on the team. Pretty much everyone who tried out made the team.”
That is not the case this year. The Kootenay regional team, which is coached by Kim Matson, Michelle’s mother, has had two try-outs with almost 30 players taking part.
“There’s a lot more range of talent this year,” said Michelle. “We’ve had a lot more players try out from all over the Kootenays.”
The team had its first try-out camp at Stanley Humphries Secondary in Castlegar on April 21. After that camp, the team was pared down to 14 players who made their way to Cranbrook for the final try-out camp on May 5 at Parkland Middle School. After that camp, the team is now down to 12 players, although the two alternates have not been selected.
“I started off almost by complete accident,” said Kim, who also coached Michelle on the Stanley Humphries junior team this past year. “In 2010 Michelle tried out for the summer games team as a grade six and ended up making it. I basically helped out with practices and was asked to be an assistant coach.”
Kim enjoyed her time helping with the summer games team in 2010.
“That gave me a bit of an eye-opener of what the games were all about,” she said. “It was a great experience. I knew Michelle had another shot at it two years later and seeing as how I had already coached, I thought I’d be a good person to step up and coach that team. So here we are two years later and it’s happening.”
The 2012 Kootenay summer games team will rely heavily on Michelle’s size (6’2) and agility and touch near the basket. As a grade 8, she played junior and was one of the top players on the SHSS junior team. Her passion for the game is evident when you watch Michelle run through drills in practice. Despite her strong skill level, she is always working hard and pushing her self and her teammates.
“I really like basketball,” said Michelle. “Going to the summer games in 2010 was really fun.”
Adding strength to the Kootenay team is a trio of talented East Kootenay players: Claire Duffy, Hunter Burton, and Cameo Hanlon. Duffy and Burton are both from Cranbrook and play on a very strong club team and add size and defence. Hanlon is from Sparwood and can play both guard and forward. Her dedication is evident, as she has to travel almost five hours to attend the camps in Castlegar.
Adding quickness and talent to the backcourt will be a pair of West Kootenay guards: Ansleigh Dergousoff from Nelson and Kari Durban from Greenwood. Dergousoff is an athletic multi-position player, while Durban is expected to be one of the team’s top defenders.
“I’ve been very impressed with the talent that’s come out,” said Kim. “It’s been great to have players from throughout the East and West Kootenays. We’ve got players from Greenwood to Sparwood.”
Coach Kim is happy with the level of improvement she’s seen in a short time.
“I’m pleased with how the team’s progressing,” she said. “We’ve had two major weekends of eight hours of basketball. We’ve tried to cover a number of things in that time. It’s a lot of stuff to cover, but I think it’s coming together.”
The Kootenay team will be heading down to the B.C. Zone Provincial Tournament in Langley on May 25-27. At that tournament, the team will have a chance to play games against other summer games teams as well as be evaluated by provincial team coaches.
“We’ve basically had two weekends to prepare them for zone provincials,” said Kim. “We’ll see what comes out of that, but I think we’re ready to compete.”
The B.C. Summer Games take place July 19-22 in Surrey. In total, there will be more than 2,800 athletes from all over the province competing in 20 different sports.
“The girls get an opportunity to play against the best in the province and participate in the summer games experience,” said Kim. “It’s something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. It’s a great opportunity for them to develop their game practicing against the best players in the area and playing against the best girls in the province.”