BURNABY — They were hoping to hit nothing but net when they took to their cozy West Gym court nestled high atop Burnaby Mountain this season.
Yet while the global pandemic put a quick end to those aspirations for the Simon Fraser women’s basketball team, they’ve still found ways to cast their net far and wide.
This weekend, they’ll trade sneakers for galoshes and run an entirely different kind of fast break, this one on docks of Steveston where they’ll help deliver a fine kettle of fish all in the name of helping kids with cancer.
On Saturday, as it celebrates its first decade of charity work, Fishermen Helping Kids With Cancer (FHKWC) will hold its 10th annual 2020 Herring Sale at both Steveston (12740 Trites Road, Richmond, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.) and Victoria (27 Erie Street, 7 a.m.-4 p.m.) locations
Through the generosity of fishermen and an army of volunteers, delicious 20-pound bags of Pacific Herring will be sold for $20.
Due to COVID, tickets for the event are being sold on-line, and those interested in donating can reserve a drive-through pick-up time during pre-determined one-hour slots over the course of the day.
The driving force behind Fishermen Helping Kids With Cancer is Phil Eidsvik, a well-loved member of the B.C. basketball community, whose daughter Nicole lost her three-year battle with cancer in 2011 at the age of 17.
Nicole Eidsvik had attended Simon Fraser summer basketball camps run by SFU women’s head coach Bruce Langford, and Phil Eidsvik, still active in his community as a youth coach, has a past history of helping with the SFU program’s booster club.
The first nine years of FHKWC’s herring sale has raised $771,918.
“It is such an incredible fund-raiser because 100 per cent of the monies raised go directly to kids with cancer,” said Langford. “Phil Eidsvik is the organizer behind it all, the guy who gives everybody else the credit when he deserves all the credit.
“We have always supported A Tournament For Emily,” continued Langford of an annual December tournament hosted by his brother, Riverside Secondary girls coach Paul Langford, and whose proceeds have supported FHKWC. “But our team hadn’t physically supported (the herring sale) in the way that I had wanted.”
All of that changes Saturday when the women of SFU gather in Richmond.
Langford jokes that he is expecting star senior guard Jessica Jones to be first on the scene Saturday, based on the fact that the former R.A. McMath guard lives in Steveston.
“We’re really close to Jones’ house out there, so her hands will still be warm when she gets there,” Langford laughed when asked how cold and slippery those bags of herring might be early in the morning.
“She just has to skip out of her back yard and over the fence to get where she’s going,” said Langford, who added that Jones “has been playing spectacular (in practices). “She’s had an MVP preseason.”
Of course in lieu of an actual GNAC campaign which was supposed to begin this month for the team, Jones and fellow seniors Ozi Nwabuko, Kendal Sands and Claudia Hart are left to ponder whether they will elect to return for the 2021-22 GNAC campaign after NCAA Div. 2 student-athletes were all granted another year of eligibility due to the pandemic’s shuttering of play.
While nothing is yet etched in stone, the uncertainty of everything has only magnified how much Jones is savouring every moment with her teammates.
“I’ve been super lucky, even though there are no games, just to see my teammates every day,” Jones said Tuesday. “We have such a great group of girls that it makes driving out to practice in the early morning, sometimes at 4 a.m., not so bad because they are so awesome. It’s not the season we were hoping for. I think it really comes down to us all being there for each other. It’s made it super fun.”
Besides the restrictions placed on them through the pandemic, Simon Fraser’s roster has taken a bit of a hit with serious knee injuries suffered this season by a pair of returning players in guard Sophie Klassen and forward Majella Carey.
For her part, Jones says there has not been any kind of monotony associated with an all-practice, no-play season, in large part because she has upped her own level of responsibility within the ranks as it pertains to having eight players on the roster entering either their first or second seasons with the team.
“It hasn’t been an issue for me because I have had a different role this season,” said Jones, who owing to a redshirt season she took after arriving at the school in 2016-17, is a time-tested veteran.
“I know all of the Xs and Os inside out now, so I have taken on more of a leadership role. I understand our systems so I can focus my attention on getting everyone where they need to be in terms of all of that. It’s where I’ve focussed my energies.”
That’s on the court.
Off of it, Jones is taking a heavy course load this semester so that she can not only graduate with her Criminology degree in the spring, but also begin preparations for eventual admission to law school.
Thus, like so many other student-athletes whose academic and athletic schedules have been thrown out of kilter by the pandemic, the future is uncertain.
And that’s why — beside her obvious desire to help an important charitable cause — Jessica Jones is looking forward to an early-morning Saturday holding bags of herring.
It’s another chance for her to be with her teammates.
“Even without games,” she said, “I am enjoying this season as much as any other year, which is pretty crazy to say.”
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