LANGLEY — It’s a turn of phrase that may be lost on our current generation of youth, but back in the day, hard-working early risers were said to get up with the chickens.
Tavia Rowell may only be 16 years of age, yet use that phraseology around the star point guard with Langley’s Triple A No. 5-ranked Walnut Grove Gators, and nothing gets lost in the translation because she actually knows her way around a real hen house.
“We used to live on a small farm in Abbotsford and we had 100 chickens,” laughs Rowell. “My brother Ty, he got the dirty job. He had to clean the chicken coup. Me? Every morning, I went and got the eggs.”
Rowell collected them by the dozen back in her elementary school days, but now she’s graduated to scoring points by the bushel for the Gators.
Nine times this season she’s dropped at least 30 points on the opposition, and when you look at the foes a young Walnut Grove team has played, it only magnifies the blue-chip defences she has faced, ones largely schemed to slow her progress.
She scored 34 against Panorama Ridge, 38 against Brookswood and during the placing games at the recent Centennial Top 10 tournament, scored 49 points against Lord Tweedsmuir.
And while it might seem impossible to imagine that anything else about her would overshadow her stunning offensive prowess (she turned 16 on Jan. 31), you need just spend a few minutes talking with her to discover an amazing level of maturity, individuality and humility.
“On the court, Tavia is savage, tenacious, she has no fear of anything and she is just way above her years as a scorer,” says Elle Kerfoot, the former Seattle University guard and Surrey-Elgin Park grad who trains and mentors Rowell at EK Hoops Training in Cloverdale. “But one of my favourite traits about Tavia is her confidence, and not just as a player, but as a person. It’s so rare to see in a young female.”
Kerfoot gushed last week when Rowell showed up at EK Hoops dressed from head to toe in a shocking pink pattern.
And everyone in attendance last March for the B.C. junior varsity final at the Langley Events Centre laughed when, during the pre-game video-screen introductions, Rowell was once again expressing her confident individuality.
All the other players were captured crossing their arms or spinning the ball on a finger. Rowell?
“She’s eating a donut,” says Kerfoot.
Ask Tavia Rowell when she first picked up the ball and learned to dribble, and you get the distinct feeling that it came before she had reached the level of long-term memory.
“Honestly, I have always played basketball,” she begins. “I have grown up in a family where everything is a competition. It’s super fun. We have always just all gone out and played together. And it’s been great to have a family that can understand everything there is about (balancing) school and the sport.”
And when we’re talking family, we’re talking large and extended.
Dad Darren, the head coach of Tavia’s team and the principal at Garibaldi Secondary in Maple Ridge, played his high school hoops with the Ramblers at Maple Ridge Secondary under the legendary Ken Dockendorf.
Mom Juanita, a teacher in Maple Ridge at Samuel Robertson Technical, is a former player with Abbotsford’s MEI Eagles.
And the kid who got stuck cleaning out the chicken coup is Ty Rowell, Tavia’s older brother and the star starting point guard for the Quad A No. 1-ranked Gators boys team.
It doesn’t stop there.
Tavia’s uncle (Juanita’s brother) is former MEI and Simon Fraser star Prentice Lenz who currently coaches his two daughters (Tavia’s cousins) — Grade 11 Sienna and Grade 9 Marin — at Abbotsford Secondary.
Considering the stature that Tavia, Sienna and Marin hold as three of the best guards in B.C., it’s amazing to consider that all three played on an elementary school-aged metro team coached by her mom and uncle.
But break it all down, and the closest family ties are the ones shared by brother and sister.
“Every morning, Ty and I go and shoot (at Walnut Grove),” Rowell says with pride. “He teaches me his moves. Since Grade 8 he has shot with me every morning. We eat breakfast, he drives us to the gym, we shoot and we rebound for each other.”
And all of that work has lifted Rowell to the top rung of her age group nationally.
In December, she attended Canada Basketball’s national cadet team try-outs in Edmonton and this past summer, as a member of the B.C.’s Finest club team, she barnstormed the U.S. on the AAU circuit, playing against blue-chip foes and in front of top talent evaulators in Seattle, Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Montreal.
Kerfoot has just one complaint about Rowell.
“She cheats all the time in workouts,” Kerfoot begins, her voice prefacing a twist. “But not like some others might. And that’s because she wants to do more reps than I ask. When you’re supposed to make 12 shots, she’ll keep saying she’s made 10 so she can make 16. She just wants more and more reps. So I tell her to do 10 push-ups, but then I say to her ‘I don’t know how to be mad at you.’”
It’s high praise coming from Kerfoot, a lifetime work-out warrior and member of The Province’s 2008 Head of the Class.
After Kerfoot was bypassed for a spot with Basketball B.C.’s Centre For Performance in 10th grade, she took it so hard she started working out as much as 32 hours a week outside of her high school team at Elgin Park. Now she sees similar traits in Rowell.
“I am very lucky to train some of the top guards in the province, in fact I feel spoiled,” Kerfoot says. “Tavia is one of them. When we teach something, we can tell how badly they want to get it, and we can tell who has bought in. Tavia goes as hard as she can go in every drill. She’s hungry and she wants to be better than everyone.”
And to do that, you’ve got to get up with the chickens.
If you’re reading this story or viewing these photrographs on any other website other than one belonging to a university athletic department, they have been taken without appropriate permission. In these challenging times, true journalism will survive only through your dedicated support and loyalty. Varsityletters.ca and all of its exclusive content has been created to serve B.C.’s high school and university sports community with hard work, integrity and respect. Feel free to drop us a line any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.