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St Mary’s 2014 Trio Make It Official, Sign NLIs



trio-signingThere’s an old saying that says that “iron sharpens iron”. This refers to the adage that it takes something strong, to make something else that is strong, to be better.

What about high level basketball players each pushing each other throughout practices to improve their skills and proving themselves, game in and game out?

This is the case at St. Mary’s Catholic Secondary School in Hamilton, ON, who yesterday took the time out to celebrate a rare feat in Canadian High School basketball:
Having three NCAA D1 commits on the same High School team, coming from the same Class, with Hilary Hanaka (Vermont commit), Amira Giannattasio (Mount St Mary commit) and Christina Buttenham (Iowa commit)

Yesterday, each signed their 2014 National Letters of Intent at a signing ceremony at their school in front of family friends and coaches and teammates to mark the major milestone.

“It was awesome. It was a little overwhelming at times but It was great seeing all of my family there. My grandparents my parents my brother and sister were also both here. All my friends came and my team was here to support us including coaches and everything. It was just a great day”, said Vermont commit Hillary Hanaka. “Playing with them and doing something as big as this with them is just unforgettable”

It was a thought that was echoed by Buttenham as well.

“I think it is really special because of the fact that I got to do it with two other players that I have been playing with since I started playing basketball,” reflected the Iowa commit about the ceremony.

The trio has been together for years, learning the nuances of the game at the rep level, even before setting foot into the well decorated high school that is likely to be the favorite once all teams qualify for next weekend’s OFSAA (Ontario high school championships) Title.


Hanaka and Buttenham have been together the longest of the trio, learning to play basketball from the age of five, within Hamilton’s Blessed Sacrament House League program.

They later connected with Giannattasio who also played in the Blessed Sacrament system before they each made the switch to Hamilton’s Transway rep program where the three play now. The three are now practically inseparable, learning, achieving and reaching new milestones together.

“I’m really fortunate to share it with my best friends over the last four years. We’ve been through everything together. I wish I could also share it with Kia Nurse because she has been with us through all these years,” said Giannattasio, who also made reference to Nurse who also plays on their rep Transway team but on their Catholic City rivals, the Thomas More Knights. The bond with Nurse, who is set to make her decision soon, is just as close as these three. “We’re basically sisters.”

Having spent so much time training and traveling together

Kia Nurse’s father, Richard Nurse, has been Coaching the Transway rep team since they all had gotten together. And recently he added Coach Nate McKibbon to the rep team’s Staff. McKibbon also coaches the St Mary’s Crusaders and is quite pleased with the progress of the girls from not having the strength to avoid air balls from the Free Throw line, to them achieving their basketball goals.

“It’s a long time coming. I remember when they were first coming into St Mary’s in Grade 9, you knew they had the potential to be special. But to watch them work together and to have the type of Coaching they did between Mr. Weslowski and Mr. Nurse, and to watch them really blossom under their tutelage, is just sort of a special feeling to see how far they’ve come in four years,” said McKibbon.
“We saw what could happen and it’s beautiful when it actually does happen.”

Beautiful only begins to describe the success these girls have had in basketball. As a partial resume amongst the trio that included participating on Provincial and National teams, winning tournaments north and south of the border, the there is no question that the three have had much success.

trio-signing-2The girls are approaching next weekend’s OFSAA Championships, seeking their fourth title, one for each of their years in high school, and in rep basketball, Hamilton Transway looking to defend their crown and seek a whopping 7th title at the highest possible level.

How have they been able to do so well?

“I think because we have been playing together for so long, I think things just kind of flow when we’re on the court. And, we can kind of sense where each other are. I’m definitely going to miss this team, but they’re both on my next club team,” said Buttenham mindful of their final rep season which kicks off in January.

Amidst the tears that started welling up in the eyes of proud parents and family, the endless stream of hugs from friends and the paparazzi type of atmosphere for the countless photos to try and capture the emotion of the ceremony, there was a slightly sobering underlying thought that kind of lingered. It was the thought that this magical ride that these friends have been on is drawing near to an end.

Coach Wesolowski, who Coached the girls at St. Mary’s from Grades 9 to 11, summed it up quite well.

Yes, it was very nice that they were winning tournaments, and winning every provincial championship they have been in to this point. But for him, after you have seen the tremendous growth from where they first started through till now, it’s going to be tough to not see a continuation of the growth in their game.

“We’ve had the chance to watch them play, whether it is with their club, or here [at St Mary’s], and then you have a signing event, its sort of sad because then they’re going to go far away and play. And then you don’t get to see where they can take their talents,” he said thoughtfully.

“Sometimes you can catch some games online but its sort of not the same thing. You see the kids and what they’ve done here and then you don’t get to see them play as much.”

While all that maybe true, let’s take the remaining opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments these girls have been able to make. They are a shining example of how sharp players can be, from the perfect mix of high level competition, coaching and training for an extended period of time.