NORTH VANCOUVER — There must be some part of Madison Legault which knows she is no longer the baby sister, no longer the tiniest player on her team at 5-foot-2.
Yet despite all tangible evidence to the contrary, including the 10 extra inches she registers on a tape measure these days, the 6-foot senior guard/forward with North Vancouver’s Windsor Dukes has herself fully convinced that she is still the runt of the litter.
Truth be told, it’s how she has forged her on-court signature as one of the most physical and relentless players in the B.C. high school Class of 2017.
Yet Legault’s survivalist instincts are seemingly so self-ingrained that any inquiries about things like actual current height and former growth spurts are met with contrasting, near-comedic responses like:
“When I was shorter, I exaggerated a lot. I told people I was 5-5 when I wasn’t.”
“I don’t even know how tall I am.”
“I always lie about my height.”
It’s important to note that all said responses were delivered amidst increasing degrees of laughter.
And it’s also important to note that after she wraps up her high school career Wednesday at PoCo’s Riverside Secondary by playing in the Lower Mainland vs. Fraser Valley High School All-Star game, that she begins preparation for the next chapter in her life as a prime recruit of the UBC Thunderbirds.
HOW LEGAULT LETS IT GO
Take a seat to watch her play this past season and in mere seconds the essence of Madison Legault’s game was revealed.
Hard take to the basket. Crash. Bang. Referee’s whistle. And-one finish at the stripe.
All of that might not seem too rare, but to do it as frequently and successfully as Legault did?
UBC head coach Deb Huband, whose team loses three six-foot-plus players to graduation, including 6-foot-2 standout Kara Spotton, gets right to the heart of the matter.
“It’s easier to refine skill than it is to find a killer instinct,” says Huband who could well see Legault making a substantial contribution this fall as a pure freshman. “Madi is used to being rough-and-tumble.
“Now, it’s a matter of refining the footwork and the skill-set. I definitely think there is an opportunity for her to be on the fast track, but a lot of that will be determined by how she handles the transition.”
The first phase of her career provides plenty of clues.
Not only did she grow up with a dad (James) as her coach, her sister Brooklyn, two years her senior and currently a rising third-year forward with the Alberta Pandas, provided a constant high-bar of competition.
“I grew really late and playing with my sister, she was always bigger than me, so I had to learn how to go up strong to the hoop and learn how to take a foul,” says Legault, who averaged 16 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks per game this season for the Dukes and picked UBC over both Alberta and Queens.
Verification of her Grade 8 height of 5-foot-2 and her subsequent growth spurts comes from her dad.
“I just checked the records,” James Legault laughs after a quick look at the fading scribbles on the laundry room door of their North Vancouver home. “In Grade 8, she was the smallest on the team at 5-2. By Grade 10 she was 5-9.”
The player herself, of course, has her own interpretation of the seven-inch growth spurt.
“It kind of happened overnight,” she laughs. “I woke up one day and I was taller.”
In the season in between (2013-14), her Grade 9 team at Windsor won the B.C. championship title.
The entire group moved up to senior varsity as Grade 10s the next season, but in both her Grade 10 and 11 seasons, Windsor came within one or two wins of qualifying for the B.C. senior Double-A championships.
This past season, however, the story was different.
A Windsor team featuring the likes of Legault, recent UNBC signee Devon Wood and point guard Claire MacDonald, qualified for provincials as a wildcard team, beating Chilliwack’s G.W. Graham Grizzlies in the opening round but losing to eventual finalist Vernon in the quarterfinals.
JOINING THE YOUTH MOVEMENT
Huband’s Thunderbirds have been going through one of the most extreme youth movements in her decorated 21-year history as UBC women’s head coach.
Two seasons ago, Vancouver-Little Flower Academy provincial MVP Jessica Hanson made an instant contribution as a pure freshman.
This past season, the same could be said for both Ali Norris and Keylyn Filewich.
Legault has a similar opportunity to strengthen the young team’s base and Huband is curious to see how tightly she embraces the situation before her.
More often than not, players who spent their high school careers contributing in both front and back courts need to improve their ball skills, overall quickness and anticipation.
Legault is no different, but Huband sees attainable heights in her game which still sit untapped.
“She has a huge upside,” the coach says. “She is a versatile player with skills in the paint and with range outside the three-point arc. She has shown huge growth in the last year, and she has been a sponge to soak up information.
“There is a bit of a vacancy here that we need to figure out and the way we do that is by the way you step onto the court and respond to a competitive situation.”
Really, that’s all Madison Legault needs to hear.
There is a part of her that has no idea how tall she is, and if you call her the run of the litter, she’s fine with that.
Just don’t get caught up in her actual height.
“Ok, right now?” she begins. “I say I’m 6-feet, but I’m actually 5-11.”
Watch the way she plays and none of it winds up mattering.
(Editor’s note — She’s 5-foot-11 and a bit, but exaggeration is every basketball player’s birth right)
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