By Ottawa Sportspage, For Louis-Riel Rebelles
The Louis-Riel Girls’ Basketball Academy has established itself as a hotbed for varsity recruiters, and now the program’s Pre-Academy is catching fire too.
In 2016, Louis-Riel high school became a founding member of the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association – a league renowned for its optimal player development philosophies and for breeding piles of university/college student-athletes. This past year, Louis-Riel kicked off a Pre-Academy for girls in Grade 7 and 8 within the school’s unique Exploratory Sports program.
“It’s been really great,” says Academy Head Coach André Desjardins, explaining that some girls may have shied away from giving basketball a try in the past if they weren’t as talented or experienced.
The Pre-Academy now ensures that the door is wide open to athletes with potential who haven’t played much organized basketball, and particularly to tall players who might need more repetitions and physical conditioning, he adds.
Pre-Academy training takes place 3 days a week during students’ year-round physical education classes. With assistance from high school players, the younger athletes work more on the ‘how-to’ basics and their individual skills to better prepare them if they join the high school Academy in the future.
“Not all Pre-Academy girls will become Academy girls, but we want to give them their best shot to develop their potential, and play at the level they should be playing,” notes Desjardins, also a coach for Team Ontario and Team Canada outside of school.
“It’s a good way for them to play against faster people and have role models in the older girls, and to see what they need to do,” adds the coach of 20+ years. “And for the Academy girls, it puts them in leadership positions and allows them to help the younger girls with concepts they may be struggling with.”
There was a surge in basketball interest when the Pre-Academy tipped off this school year, and there are many more signed up to join in next year, including numerous club basketball players looking to supplement their training.
“The goal is just to build some future leaders who will get a chance to keep playing the game that they love at a post-secondary institution,” Desjardins concludes.
4 fresh Louis-Riel grads set to join U Sports teams
The Academy has produced a pile of varsity talent already. In fact, the program has a perfect record – each graduate has gone on to play university or college basketball since it began.
The class of 2020 includes: future McGill University Martlet Emma-Jane Scotten (who will study early childhood education), Lootii Kiri (University of Toronto Varsity Blues, math & science), and a pair of incoming University of Ottawa Gee-Gees – Raissa Nsabua (software engineering) and Naziah Charles (communications).
“I’m just so happy because that’s what the girls were striving for,” Desjardins signals. “And it shows the younger girls that there is something after high school ball if I put the work in.”
Learn more about the Louis-Riel Sports-Study Program and available streams at: https://sportsottawa.com/2020/02/20/louis-riel-sports/