NORTH VANCOUVER — It’s one thing for a high school basketball talent to surface in her senior season with a skill set on the court so varied she is able to affect the game at virtual any part of its dimensions.
Yet it’s something entirely different when that surfacing reveals what is commonly referred to as ‘just the tip of the iceberg.’
Tanis Metcalfe has hardly been a secret over her extended summer stock sessions with Basketball B.C. the past number of seasons.
Yet as Carson Graham’s 6-foot-2 Grade 12 forward has hit the backstretch of her high school career, the forward momentum created by the entirety of her athletic resume combined with her own determined sweat equity has confirmed the fact that the best parts of the package are yet to be revealed.
How best to explain the net effect of a convergence of raw gifts within a nurturing network of player development, one which has helped Metcalfe average 26 points per game this season?
Maybe think of the part of the iceberg you can see as part of her game which has been realized, with her vast future potential inching its way up past the surface.
“I think she has the potential to have multiple layers in her game,” said UBC head coach Deb Huband earlier this week of the player she has recruited to join her charges next season.
“Of course so much of it will hinge on her continued development,” continued Huband who has seen Metcalfe improve her touch in the paint, extend her jumper to the medium range, gain comfort with her dribble, and refine her impact as a rebounder. “But that development has been a big piece for her over the last year and there is a lot more to come. Players with her height usually take a little longer to develop, but Tanis is already giving us glimpses.”
MALLEABLE MEANS VALUABLE
No one knows a player better than their high school coach, and at Carson Graham, that person is Cameron Nelson.
“When I look at Tanis from Grade 8 to Grade 12 I just see this massive improvement,” says Nelson who leads the Eagles into the prestigious Top 10 Shoot-Out tournament which began today (Wednesday) at Coquitlam’s Centennial Secondary School and runs through Saturday.
“Body-hand-eye coordination is tough for tall players,” he continued, “but Basketball B.C. has done so much for her development. I would say that in the last 18 months, I have seen a huge improvement in her coordination under the basket, how she is able to make these spin moves and really just be able to finish her shots.”
And she has developed, this season, into an 80 per cent free throw shooter.
Yet maybe the most telling part of the tapping of Metcalfe’s untapped potential can be seen in how Nelson has elected to use his tallest player within the team’s pressure-defence schemes.
“We’ve worked on a much tougher pressing defence at Carson this season, and part of it has been by using Tanis to set it up. I don’t normally like to use the big player (to trap) but she has taken it on, and she can transition back very quickly. The big players are not always the first to get back, but she does.”
Certainly that example offers basketball’s best definition of being a malleable player.
Not only in is there a plus-level of skill and compete, but also good, old-fashioned athleticism.
“I have always been fast for my height,” admits Metcalfe who got her first chance to run at the senior varsity provincials last March when the Eagles qualified as Lower Mainland No. 3.
“People see me at 6-2 and I think they are surprised that I can run the court like I do,” she adds, crediting her multi-sport background for the assist. “I played soccer until high school and that really helped with my footwork and coordination.”
She also suited up on the volleyball court, both at club and high school, as a middle blocker.
This 2017-18 season is her first ever as a focused, single-sport athlete.
A VALUABLE PIECE TO THE PUZZLE
When you think back to the golden era of UBC women’s basketball, that span of six seasons from 2003-04 to 2011-12 in which the ‘Birds played in four CIS national finals and won three, the number of blue-chip frontcourt players that Huband had in her rotation each season, and the variances in their respective skill sets, was amongst the best in the nation.
From Kelsey Blair to Tina Lum to Kim Howe to Leanne Evans to Montanna Dunmore to Alex Vieweg to Zara Huntley to Leigh Stansfield to Tori Spangehl to Adrienne Parkin…
Apologies to those I missed, but off the top of my head, I think you get the idea.
The ‘Birds have had some incredible front court players since the 2011-12, when they lost in the national final to Windsor, but they have not had them with the same depth and the same versatility.
Presently, the ‘Birds are younger than they have ever been in any stage of Huband’s generation-long career as the program’s most successful coach ever.
Yet without a single fourth- or fifth-year player on the roster, a re-make is underway with youthful frontcourt players like Keylyn Filwich and Madison Legault.
Huband still doesn’t have enough of them, but the addition of Metcalfe does nothing but help.
Who does Huband offer when asked for Metcalfe’s potential comparable?
“She has some of the versatile athleticism that is similar to one of our past small forwards, Kim Howe,” says Huband, referencing a player who helped the ‘Birds win a pair of national titles before departing after the 2006-07 season. “Tanis has more height and a larger wingspan (6-foot-5). But Kim, she was pretty versatile, and she could play from basket to basket and really get after it on defence.”
It should be noted that in 2006-07, a season in which UBC did not win the national title, UBC went 21-2 in the Canada West regular season with the versatile Howe part of a front court rotation that included Little, Blair and Evans, and that as a foursome they were physical, but also able to play with great finesse.
That is the kind of tradition the latest wave of incoming ‘Birds needs to embrace. And it feels like Metcalfe can’t wait to get that part of her career started.
“(Huband) has talked to me about my length and about running the court,” says Metcalfe. “She’s talked to me about expanding my game. I know I am not as big as some posts, but I am tall enough to play inside and outside, too. Right now, driving to the hoop, getting fouled, and using my hook shot have become my staples. But I think I can go up to UBC and take bigger steps, like expanding my shooting to three-point range. I am really excited. I can’t wait.”
The part of the iceberg you can’t see?
That’s the sound of it talking.
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