Only a player with a love for the game like Semiahmoo's Faith Dut (top) could turn a battle for a loose ball into a such a joyous experience for all. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of VarsityLetters.ca 2019. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Girls Basketball

Semiahmoo’s Faith Dut: Growth mindset helps Totems’ senior and ex-ballerina take it step-by-step to the Big Dance and beyond

SURREY — The best place to start any kind of conversation about the seemingly limitless basketball ceiling of Faith Dut is simply to say that while she’s likely done growing in one regard, she’s just getting started in another.

Accomplishments aplenty are already a part of the resume of Semiahmoo’s joyfully-spirited senior forward, like the fact that she’s headed to a collegiate career in the SEC next season with the Florida Gators.

Yet to fully understand the force of her upward trajectory and the eagerness with which she welcomes the daily challenge of meeting her potential, just close your eyes and imagine the 6-foot-3 Dut with her arms extended to maximum wingspan.

OK, got it?

“Of all the players I have ever worked with, she picks things up so quickly and I would say exponentially,” begins Allison McNeill, the Semiahmoo head coach who recently began her fourth decade in the profession. “She is still so young to the game and she is not the finished product. But what she has is a growth mindset.”

As the lone senior starter on a B.C. Triple A No. 1-ranked Totems team graced by its 10th graders, Dut, 17, enters the final few weeks of her high school career with a chance to lead her team to the school’s first senior varsity provincial title since 1953’s all-comers crown.

The chase gets underway in earnest Wednesday, weather permitting, as the Totems enter the Fraser Valley championships as the No. 1 seed, hosting No. 16 Fraser Heights in a 7:45 p.m. tip-off. The same South Surrey regional begins at 6 p.m. when No. 8 Abbotsford clashes with No. 9 Lord Tweedsmuir in a return engagement between a pair of schools who met for the 2017 B.C. title.

(Click here for the full Fraser Valley girls AAA championship draw)

Meanwhile, the likes of Semiahmoo Grade 10’s Tara Wallack, Deja Lee, Izzy Forsyth, Raushan Bindra, Emily Wubs and Nicole Pajic have the potential to together, author dynastic success at the top level of the B.C. girls game over the next few seasons.

Yet if all of that is going to start when the Triple A championship tournament tips off on the final day of this month at the Langley Events Centre,  Chapter 1 will come with more than a little of Dut’s senior service.

Semiahmoo head coach Allison McNeill started coaching in the 1980’s yet can’t recall as fast a learner as her current senior forward Faith Dut. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of VarsityLetters.ca 2019. All Rights Reserved)

THE PRUDENT STUDENT

Embracing the growth mindset has been critical in allowing Dut to maximize her gifts.

Yet ask her about that, and she firsts credits the good fortune she has enjoyed in being mentored at Semiahmoo by the husband-wife team of Mike and Allison McNeill, the former an ex-Simon Fraser Clan guard and the latter a former Oregon Ducks guard.

“I use the word ‘blessed’ because they are the most genuine people I have met,” begins Dut of the pair, whose coaching resumes include their shared partnerships in the Pac 12 with Oregon, and of course, with Canada’s senior women’s national team.

“They don’t see me as just a basketball player,” continues Dut, who on a deep-and-balanced Semiahmoo team averages about 18 points and nine rebounds per game. “They see me as a student, they see me as a woman, they see a part of me that so many others don’t. And I see their commitment to both myself and my teammates.”

It’s a place where the McNeill’s brand of mentorship has placed Dut squarely in her comfort zone.

“It’s not all about just being tall and long,” begins Dut of the physical attributes which have given her a starting point with her on-court identity. “That alone won’t cut it. It’s an advantage. Allison and Mike have both explained that to me. Learning to use your size is crucial and once you know how to use it, it’s the best thing ever.”

And reaching that level is when the breakthroughs begin. For Dut, that’s been especially true on the defensive side of the ball.

“She is not afraid to get down in a stance and guard anyone,” begins McNeill of Dut, who was shelved for a spell to start the new year with a concussion. “If we switch a ball screen, she is quick, agile and long and she really enjoys that aspect of the game. She has a desire to play defence.”

Offensively, Dut is improving in leaps and bounds.

“Her defence and playing without the ball is ahead of where she is with the ball, but she’s still come so far,” says her coach.

A turnaround jumper which was in its infancy stages last March in terms of its confidence and its delivery, has surely matured.

“And we have worked on her footwork so she can really get an extension when she pivots and finishes with a hook shot,” McNeill says. “All of that kind of stuff has grown incredibly.”

Semiahmoo senior Faith Dut has taken nothing for granted in her rapid ascent to the upper regions of B.C.’s Class of 2019. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of VarsityLetters.ca 2019. All Rights Reserved)

NOW FOR THE BIG DANCE

Right about now, it’s time to re-introduce Dut’s path to basketball from a slightly unconventional place.

She hasn’t exactly come from Swan Lake to her high school basketball swan song, yet more and more, the routines of her early life as both a hip-hop dancer and ballerina have proved to be a portent to her growth mindset on the basketball court.

“There is no doubt that she has great coordination, and great core strength for her length,” McNeill confirms. “And dancing has helped that footwork. It’s made her quick, and at times that quickness is unreal. It can be shocking to see when she explodes to the basket.”

This past summer, along with Fraser Valley-bound Deanna Tuchscherer (G.W. Graham) and UBC-bound Olivia Morgan-Cherchas (South Kamloops), Dut represented Canada at the FIBA Under-17 World Cup in Belarus.

And recently, when her head coach-to-be at Florida, Cameron Newbauer, flew up to be at her Seniors Night game, he later remarked to McNeill that he was “…impressed with her progress and thought that through her rebounding and defence, she could contribute quickly.”

Said Newbauer to floridagators.com upon Dut’s signing last November: “Faith plays and carries herself with great energy and enthusiasm in all she does. Her size and ability to score inside and out will add depth to our front court. Her smile and personality light up a room and her passion for being a great teammate is special.”

Sitting with a 2-9 record and one spot out of the SEC basement thus far this season, Dut flinches for not a second as she looks to her future with the re-building Gators.

“I wanted to go to a school where I could make my own story,” she begins. “Honestly, I wanted to be somewhere where I knew I would be challenged and be able to help build something better.”

Not surprisingly, that’s another example of Faith Dut’s growth mindset.

Seems like she can’t look at her future in any other way.

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