BURNABY — The Simon Clan women’s basketball team, which honoured just a pair of graduating players on its Seniors Night in late February, is going to be a lot younger team than originally anticipated this coming season.
That adds up to opportunity in the early part of their Clan careers for the three pure B.C. high school freshmen announced as part of the latest recruiting class of head coach Bruce Langford.
Kendal Sands, a point guard from Coquitlam’s Dr. Charles Best Blue Devils; Sierra Schefer, a multi-purpose swing-guard from the Argyle Pipers in North Vancouver; and Juliana Babic, a hard-nosed forward from Holy Cross in Surrey who missed all of 2016-17 to a knee injury, make up the incoming class.
A trio of SFU players with at least a year of remaining eligibility in Elisa Homer, Samantha Beauchamp and Vanessa Gee have all elected not to return for various reasons next season, bringing the Clan’s number of departing players to five.
That quintet, which included starters Kett, Wilson and Homer, played 49 per cent of the team’s minutes, and accounted for 97 of the team’s 170 starting slots over a 26-8 overall campaign.
Also expected to boost the ranks of new Clan players is 6-foot rising redshirt-sophomore forward Nicole Vander Helm, another Holy Cross product who has spent the past two seasons in Div. 1 at Santa Clara.
With Vander Helm’s signing still not official through school channels, Langford was unable to comment on her, owing to NCAA rules.
A look at each of the incoming freshmen trio:
JULIANA BABIC, 5-foot-11 forward
As a Grade 11, she averaged 16.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game for the Crusaders, and Langford calls her “a tenacious rebounder.”
“She had some concerns with the knee and I just said to her ‘whatever happens we have interest in you,’” said Langford. “We like her as a rebounder and we want to see how she develops in our program.”
With Wilson and Beauchamp gone, SFU is still well-manned in the frontcourt with the team’s veteran Rachel Fradgley, relentless Sophie Swant, veteran transfer Tayla Jackson, redshirt freshman Claudia Hart and potentially Vander Helm.
That’s why Langford is comfortable with seeing how things play out, especially with Babic coming off her knee injury.
“I don’t know where she might end up,” began Langford. “She is not a five (centre), but she can play out of the high post for sure and do some good things, so I think we’ll bring her along slowly. We don’t want to rush her if she’s not ready. We think she has a rebounding piece that is better than anybody’s rebounding piece.”
SIERRA SCHEFER, 5-foot-9 guard/forward
Langford has found a player here whose potential is just starting to reveal itself.
Schefer comes from the same high school program which produced Swant, yet she is much a different type of player.
“Right now she shoots it reasonably well for a high school kid, with a nice high (shooting) pocket which we like,” says Langford. “She is quite athletic and she has good size for the perimetre.”
Most notable is a near 6-foot wingspan which suggests, in concert with her athleticism, an ability to develop into a unique kind of defender.
“I think she has to improve her ball skills and I think she has played a lot of zone, so she is going to have to get out and defend hard man-to-man and pick up in the full court,” added Langford.
KENDAL SANDS, 5-foot-9 point guard
With Kett’s graduation, the only pure point guard on the Clan roster for this coming season is rising sophomore Tayler Drynan, who showed very well down the stretch of the season.
Using the game’s numerical system of designating positions down to ones as point guards, Langford begins: “We have three kids that can play the five, around four that can play the four, three to four that can play at three and five or six that can play at two. We have one and two halves that can play at one.
“So Kendal could have an opportunity because she is a pure point guard, and she plays at the place where we’re thinnest.”
The core of the team’s backcourt is being built around its youth. Rising sophomores Drynan, Ozi Nwabuko and Tia Tsang all enjoyed promising freshman campaigns with the versatile Nwabuko looking like a potential GNAC Player of the Year over the course of her career. As well, Jessica Jones, a talented combo guard who took a redshirt season, jumps into the mix.
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