When Ayden Kristmanson and Pietra Kamstra return to classes, they shouldn't have too much trouble putting together a compelling "How I spent my summer" essay.
The soon-to-be Grade 9 students at Whistler Secondary School (WSS) spent the bulk of summer with the U14 Basketball BC provincial program.
Basketball BC officially ran two teams, but the local duo explained the rosters of each were fluid as coaches sought to have the 24 girls learn to play with everyone as opposed to just a select few.
"For the (games) that were closer to home, we split it into three teams, and they were all evenly split," Kristmanson, a small forward, said, noting the talent was roughly evenly distributed. "For Portland and Las Vegas, we had two teams, so we had 12 players on each team.
"Every tournament you were playing with somebody different."
In addition to an early tournament in Coquitlam, the program also brought players to Lynden, Wash., Portland and Las Vegas. At one of the Nevada tournaments, Kamstra's team posted a third-place finish, a strong showing for the program in a competitive summer overall.
"We did pretty well," Kristmanson said.
Both Kamstra and Kristmanson enjoy competing with WSS' Storm, but appreciated the opportunity to work alongside B.C.'s best players, who came from all over — Victoria to Princeton to Prince George.
"Our teammates were all really good and they really pushed me to be better, to perform better," Kamstra, a centre, said. "Every practice was like the real thing."
"When you get all the best players in the province together, all the practices are insane. They're always hard," added Kristmanson, whose father Alan coaches the Storm and was one of four provincial coaches.
Travelling to the United States brought things up another level, as the challengers to the south brought an added layer of hard-nosed play not commonly found here in Canada.
"I realized the first time we went to the U.S. how hard and aggressive the girls there play," Kamstra said.
"It was definitely an eye-opener for our whole team to see the girls in the U.S. that are our age that play like that," Kristmanson added.
The players also appreciated the chance to hear a range of coaching voices, explaining there was a faction that focused on designing plays and developing a plan, while others had expertise in helping the girls read plays and adjust on the fly.
The two were part of a regional team that attended a tournament in Vancouver in the spring in the hopes of catching the team's eye. Both did and were invited to tryouts where they made the team.
"I didn't even think I would make it to tryouts," Kamstra admitted. "I thought we were good, but I knew a lot of other good girls.
"I didn't feel any pressure, really."
With four years of high school ball still ahead of them, any rigid decisions on their respective futures are still off in the distance for both. Both said they hope to be part of the provincial program for years to come, but Kamstra isn't yet sure about what she'll want to do afterward. Kristmanson, meanwhile, is open to the idea of trying to parlay her skills into a post-secondary scholarship.
"I think I want to play university basketball, but I'm really not quite sure yet. I haven't really thought about it too much," she said. "Basketball's pretty important to me, so I'd like to keep it a part of my life."
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