Langley hoops trio gets bronzed with B.C.
While many of their classmates spent their summers relaxing, hanging out and doing typical teenager stuff, a trio of Langley teens spent a whole lot of time in the inside of gymnasiums.
But the sacrifice paid off over the weekend as Sydney Williams, Tayla Jackson and Amy Sprangers helped Team BC win bronze at the Canadian U17 girls basketball championships in Fredericton, N.B.
B.C. defeated Quebec 69-38 in the bronze medal game on Saturday (Aug. 11).
The process to make out the team began months ago, with the players being named to the roster in April. From there, the team spent the summer playing together in various tournaments all the while knowing that of the 18 players, only a dozen would make the final roster to head to New Brunswick for the U17 championships.
“It was a really big goal (to make the team),” admitted Williams, prior to attending the championships.
Williams played on the U15 provincial team two years ago. But unhappy with her performance that summer, she took last summer off to work on her game.
“I wasn’t playing up the standards for myself,” she said.
The year off did help her recharge and it showed on the court during the high school basketball season where she played guard for the Brookswood Bobcats.
Williams, who enters Grade 12 at Brookswood next month, was a key contributor for the Bobcats, who spent much of the year at first or second in the AAA senior girls rankings before ultimately coming fourth at provincials.
Brookswood coach Neil Brown calls Williams probably the best athlete on the team who brings strength.
“She is tough; if they went into a weight room, no one would even come close to her,” he said.
“She is the strongest kid on that team.”
For Jackson and Sprangers, making the U17 provincial team came as a little bit of a surprise considering both players are underaged.
Jackson is 15 and going into Grade 10 at Brookswood, while Sprangers — who lives in Brookswood — is 16 and entering Grade 11 at Holy Cross.
Playing with a higher age group is nothing new for Jackson who has played for the senior Bobcats since Grade 8.
The six-foot-two Jackson usually plays post for Brookswood and power forward when on provincial teams.
She was also on last summer’s U15 provincial team which won bronze at nationals.
Jackson said playing for Brookswood has elevated her game.
“When I first started playing for (coach) Brown, I was very inconsistent, but I think over the past year and a bit, I have worked on my consistency and I think my skills have definitely developed and I have become more of a player.”
It can be a challenge, especially playing such a physical position like the post, where she is matched up against older players with more size and experience.
“It is difficult at times, but I just try to step up to the plate,” Jackson said.
“I don’t walk in there with a Grade 9 mentality; I go in there thinking (she) and I are no different.”
Brown said playing at an elite event like this — against the top players from around the country — will be great in Jackson’s development.
“Tayla is quite a good athlete for a kid her size,” he said.
“She has got the skills, but it is a learning experience.
“This will be another great experience for her.”
Jackson said she learned a lot from her experience last summer. After the long high school season and then playing with Team BC, by the time August rolled around and nationals approached, she had already peaked and had nothing left in the tank.
This time, she was more prepared.
Sprangers, who turned 16 the day after winning bronze, said she went into the tryouts content to do her best and see if she landed a roster spot.
“The whole year, every time I was in the gym, I would be practising for this tryout, so I was happy when I made it,” she said.
“It is a cool feeling that you have been picked as one of the best players in B.C.
“It is a pretty empowering feeling.”
Sprangers plays post and on the perimeter, depending on what the team needs. She was also part of Team BC’s U15 squad last summer which won bronze.
Now that nationals are over, the trio will step up their preparation for the approaching high school season.
Neil Dixon photo