Earning a coveted spot on the Team Ontario U15 team is an enviable position to be in for many of the province’s aspiring elite players. Their tryouts attract many of the best from near and far, who this year had earned an invite to show their stuff in front of returning U15 Head Coach, Christa Eniojukan and her staff.
“It’s pretty stressful going in there, not know what the situation is going to be because the talent pool is so deep. Having the final team picked, now we can move forward, so it’s exciting”, said Eniojukan with a big sigh, relieved that this major hurdle has been accomplished.
This year’s staff, not unlike others, had gone in with a game plan, ready to zero in on specific areas of perspective players’ game.
“We have different defensive points of emphasis, offensive points of emphasis, athleticism and intangibles,” said Eniojukan about her and her staff’s election process, which the team aligns with the Canada Basketball curriculum. “And we evaluate based on those points of emphasis and we come together to debrief.”
The result? The selection of a team that will not only catch the eye of college coaches when they hit the U.S. travel circuit this summer, but one that will peak in time for their ultimate goal: A 2015 Canadian National Gold Medal.
This year’s Canadian Nationals are to be held again in Edmonton, AB from July 24-29, 2015. This summer, the Ontario squad will be looking to better their 2014 Silver Medal performance. Despite the high hopes of last year, they fell short to an opportunistic Team Saskatchewan who won their first ever Canadian National U15 Girls’ Gold Medal.
“Last year we came up just a little bit short in getting all of our players ready to take on all of the roles that they were ready to take on.”
“We had five injuries last year,” said Eniojukan about the end of July event. “So, we had girls on the roster that were comprised of alternates and invite players.”
“I’d say one thing that we would like to do better is that we want to ensure that the entire team is prepared better to take on various roles.”
With their selection points of emphasis in place, the next step over the coming months is to navigate the remainder of the rep team seasons that are currently in full swing. The goal here is for the team to seek out the development that they are looking for, without disrupting their other commitments.
“We don’t want to interfere with what their rep coaches are doing. All we’ll try to do is add in little details, like if someone who needs to work on their shooting, we can work on different types of shots that they need to work on, and their decision making.”
The aim is to compliment whatever their existing programs are with their clubs as an overlay of skill building, with the hopes of not needing to start from square one once the summer hits.
“One big thing is getting their bodies ready. A lot of girls at such a young age don’t really understand what it takes to train at the elite level. When we were watching them during their dynamic warm ups, we we’re looking for girls who’s knees were swaying when they’re doing lunges, or their squatting techniques isn’t correct so that we can send them feedback on that, every single day. So when they come to us, then they are already ahead and they can do those things properly. We call that ‘pre-hab’.”
In preparation of the Canadian Nationals, This year, Team Ontario will be planning on attending the USJN Premier Invitational in Cincinnati, OH, and the Nike National Invitational in Chicago, IL.
“Last year [I believe] we opened up 0-2 on the first day. I remember our second game we didn’t play well. We faced some very competitive, stronger, faster and quicker [competition]. We had to face some adversity and it was great for us,” said Eniojukan, relishing the opportunity for her team to be sharpened.
After a heart to heart conversation with the team that first night, the team discussed what they encountered. They went back to the drawing board, regrouped and did what was necessary to turn things around going 2-1 for the remainder of the tourney.
“We feel that we can be competitive in those divisions. I think that it is an opportunity to get out of their comfort zones and get challenged,” said Eniojukan who’s team faced a couple EYBL teams during that run last summer. “We like to see how our girls react to those situations, in order to prepare for (Canadian) Nationals. We don’t want to go into Nationals being challenged for the first time.”