By Martin Boyce
Venturing off to Toronto alone is a daunting task for a 16-year-old. For Julia Chadwick, leaving her family behind in Ottawa to pursue elite-level basketball was challenging, but rewarding.
A year after making that move to join the Durham Elite program in the newly-formed Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association, hard work is paying off for Chadwick.
The former Nepean High School student is headed to the Canada Summer Games as a member of Team Ontario, and she’s also committed to Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh – two achievements that are the first steps to, maybe one day, joining the national team, she hopes.
“It was really exciting to hear that I made the team,” Chadwick recalls. “I really love basketball and knowing that I’m successful in it – I’m just very proud to accomplish that.”
Having her dad enroll her in competitive basketball in Grade 4 was the first domino to fall in her young, successful career. Chadwick wasn’t too familiar with the sport, despite her dad having played university ball himself, and she was one of the shorter girls.
“I was kind of shorter and not a very good player back then,” laughs the 6’1” wing player. “It’s funny because now I’m a lot taller and bigger and they called me ‘little Julia.’”
Chadwick played for the Ottawa Shooting Stars club through Grade 8, then moved on to the Ottawa Nationals in the Junior Elite League of Ontario.
She was sold on the idea of an easier routine in the new Ontario Scholastic league, and decided Durham would offer the best opportunity over studying in French at Louis-Riel high school, the only local option.
“At times it was challenging, but I think, for the most part, it was a really good experience,” signals Chadwick, who found a host family from her new Durham team to house her for her remaining two years of high school.
Durham Elite/Team Ontario coach Christa Eniojukan was a tremendous help as well, she adds.
“I learned a lot on and off the court – a lot of life lessons,” the 16-year-old indicates. “But I think, without her support, I couldn’t have improved as much as I did.”
Chadwick will have a familiar face from back home joining her in Winnipeg. Taylor Featherstone has been an opponent of hers for 5 years, and they also played together for a year in JUEL Prep with the Nationals.
Unlike Chadwick, Featherstone was lucky enough to already be enrolled at Louis-Riel and she speaks French, but says she’d never leave her coach, André Desjardins, anyway.
“He has provided me with so many opportunities and has been there for me throughout my whole journey,” indicates the 17-year-old. “I would really miss his support.”
Eight years of basketball, which started innocently enough from playing with her friend in gym class, led Featherstone to her first Team Ontario nomination last year.
“I think last year is when I realized that I love this and I’m good at it and I want to pursue my career in it,” highlights Featherstone, who served as her team’s captain.
Team Canada and varsity basketball are now amongst her long-term goals.
“Get better every day and just keep striving,” adds the former Gloucester Wolverines player, noting she plans to keep working hard to achieve her dreams. “I know that they will come true if I keep pushing myself to the max.”
Kingston’s Connor Vreeken, a member of the Canadian Youth Basketball League Showdown-champion Ottawa Elite club this season, will also compete for Team Ontario in the men’s division.