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Local hoopers to shoot big-stage buckets

Two local basketball players hope their backcourt ability will help the Team Alberta U18 women's and men's squads succeed at the 2022 Canada Summer Games.

Two local basketball players will be taking their game to the next level after making the U18 Team Alberta squads set to play in the upcoming Canada Summer Games this August.

17-year-old Josh Ahayere from Morinville has made the U18 men's team as a guard, while 18-year-old Maya Flindall from St. Albert, also a guard, made the U18 women's team.

Flindall recently finished her high school basketball career at St. Albert Catholic High School after graduating in the spring. She and her Skyhawks teammates came fifth in this year's provincials.

“We had a great year," Flindall said. "By the end of the season we became a really strong team.”

Flindall and Team Alberta have been working hard in training camps leading up to the Summer Games. This week, the team had a three-day camp in Lethbridge, complete with nutrition sessions, sports psychology sessions, and of course, team practices.

“Whenever we do our training camps, depending on what city we’re in, we usually billet," she said. "The girls that live in Lethbridge billet the rest of the team ... [it's] been super cool to get to know the girls in a different way and spend a lot of time with each other.”

Flindall is set to begin her university basketball career this fall, as she's enrolled at the University of Saskatchewan to play for the Huskies.

“The big reason I wanted to go there is to play for that program," she said. "The [Huskies] coach, Lisa Thomaidis, coached the women’s national team for over 20 years, so to be able to play for her and learn under her was just a great opportunity for me that I couldn’t pass up.

"I know it’ll be a big jump coming from high school to university, but I’ve been out there a couple of times for training camps and the girls and the coaches are super supportive, so I think they’ll make it very fun."

Flindall said one basketball player that she tries to model her game after also plays for a team called the Huskies at the University of Connecticut.

“I really like watching Paige Bueckers," she said. Bueckers is a 20-year-old American point guard who has taken women's university basketball by storm over the past two years.

"I really like her game because we play similar positions and we have a similar build," Flindall said. "I love being able to watch the way she moves and the way she looks to score."

For August's Summer Games, Flindall said she is excited to play with and against some of the best players in the country. 

"I think it’s an awesome opportunity to go to an event where it’s all the sports, and not just basketball.”

Eyes on the prize

Ahayere — the U18 men's guard — said the last few weeks of training camps for the U18 men's team have made him feel the team has a chance to win a Summer Games medal.

"Every practice, we're gluing together as a group more and more, and just building on our chemistry," Ahayere said.

When asked if the training leading up to the Games has been grueling, Ahayere said there was nowhere else he'd rather be.

"It’s fun for me, you know, so I don’t really look at how many times we're playing or anything like that," he said. “The coaches have been very great and helpful. They’ve helped me take my game to the next level in the short amount of time I’ve been training and practicing with them."

Ahayere played junior high-school basketball in Morinville before he and his family moved to Edmonton. Ahayere now attends Strathcona High School (commonly referred to as Scona), where he plays for the Lords.

"It was a better opportunity basketball-wise," Ahayere said, explaining that Scona's team plays in a more competitive bracket of high school basketball than Morinville's.

He said his first season with Scona went well, despite the team's frustrating results.

"We were a young team, so unfortunately we didn’t make provincials," Ahayere said. "There’s a lot to build off of coming into next season, and we have most of our guys back, so I feel like we can make a deep provincial run, or even win it next season.”

Ahayere said he doesn't try to model his game after just one player, as he prefers to adapt parts of many players' styles, but his own defensive and physical basketball mentality has drawn him comparisons to NBA point guard Kyle Lowry. 

When asked if he's thought about University yet, Ahayere said he's received a couple of scholarship offers already, but isn't allowed to share any details.

“I haven’t made a decision yet, I’ve got a few options," he said.

The 2022 Canada Summer Games will take place in the Niagara Region of Ontario from Aug. 6 to 21.


About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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