Brookswood's Aislinn Konig, posing with high school coach Neil Brown, sits very high on the list of B.C.'s Top 40 all-time girls high school basketball players. (Photo courtesy Neil Brown)
Feature High School Girls Basketball

Top 40 B.C. High School Girls basketball players of all time! Tsumura and Ewen produce a pioneering list! Let the debates begin!

I got Bruce Langford on the phone this week and I told the longtime Simon Fraser women’s basketball coach that I wanted to ask him a hypothetical question.

“What would you think if a pair of sportswriters decided to get together and hold a player draft to determine the 40 best girls high school basketball players in B.C. history?

“My first reaction?” began Langford, “‘Ohhh, you’re going to piss a lot of people off.”

I protested.

“But we’ve got good intentions, and 70 years of combined experience in this racket, the vast majority of which has been spent with a keen eye on the high school beat…”

“It’s not going to be easy,” warned Langford, who before winning national championships at SFU was winning provincial high school titles at Mission’s Heritage Park Secondary. “In fact, it’s going to be a nightmare.”

Right about now I can hear Bill Withers’ voice in my head, singing Ain’t No Sunshine.

What was the The Province’s Steve Ewen thinking when he called me last Sunday to pitch our shared energies towards just such a futile exercise?

In fact at first I declined.

Yet the more I thought about it, the more I realized what a good idea Steve had… a big first step, in fact, towards opening the dialogue of debate within a segment of the B.C. sports world whose wonderful history is largely unknown.

And so on Wednesday morning, over a brisk 35-minute phone call, the deed was completed.

Steve picked first, and for 20 rounds I followed him, and when it was all over, I felt good. Proud, in fact, that my longtime former co-worker and I had indeed accomplished our task: To give our best effort towards compiling a list of the Top 40 girls players in B.C. high school history… one which I know will get people talking.

Yet this universe is so vast and so un-catalogued that a couple days of research just didn’t seem enough.

“If you asked me today, and then you asked me again in two weeks, my list would probably be different,” chuckled Langford.

Kelowna’s Taya Hanson (left) and Walnut Grove’s Tavia Rowell both earned selection to the Top 40 All-Time B.C. girls high school basketball honour roll. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of Varsity Letters 2021. All Rights Reserved)

OK, so here’s the overall list (with my picks — the even numbers —  in bold-face type), with so much more to follow below:

THE TOP 40

B.C. GIRLS HIGH SCHOOL PLAYERS

1 Kim Smith (Heritage Park, 2000)

2 Bev Smith (Salmon Arm, 1978)

3 Teresa Kleindienst (Heritage Park, 1997)

4 Aislinn Konig (Brookswood, 2017)

5 Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe (Kalamalka, 2009)

6 Allison Towriss (Salmon Arm, 1977)

7 Erica McGuinness (Handsworth, 2003)

8 Bev Bland (Richmond, 1970)

9 Amber Hall (Britannia, 1995)

10 Carol Turney (Chilliwack, 1972)

11 Sarah McKay (Stelly’s, 2003)

12 Ruth Hamblin (Houston Christian, 2012)

13 Carla Stone (Killarney, 1989)

14 Michelle Hendry (Caledonia, 1987)

15 Breanne Watson (R.A. McMath, 2003)

16 Erin Carson (Abbotsford, 1984)

17 Cheryl Kelsey (Killarney, 1980)

18 Taya Hanson (Kelowna, 2018)

19 Erin Gibbons (Salmon Arm, 1997)

20 Erin Chambers (Heritage Park, 2011)

21 Megan Magee (Windsor, 1990)

22 Louise Forsyth (Brookswood, 2017)

23 Christine Rigby (Spectrum, 1996)

24 Tavia Rowell (Walnut Grove, 2019)

25 Lani Gibbons (Salmon Arm, 2003)

26 Emma Wolfram (South Kamloops, 2013)

27 Camille Thompson (Salmon Arm, 1989)

28 Kris Young (Handsworth, 2010)

29 Dani Langford (Heritage Park, 2000)

30 Diana Lee (Handsworth, 2010)

31 Susie Jarosch (Prince Rupert, 1990)

32 Ashley Burke (Argyle, 2001)

33 Lisa Tindle (York House, 2005)

34 Leanne Evans (Port Moody, 2004)

35 Lindsay Brooke (Spectrum, 1996)

36 Tara Wallack (Semiahmoo, 2021)

37 Deja Lee (Semiahmoo, 2021)

38 Kelsey Adrian (Brookswood, 2006)

39 Izzy Forsyth (Semiahmoo, 2021)

40 Susan Ewanick (Vanderhoof, 1984)

So how about that list? (Click here to read Steve Ewen’s story)

Handsworth’s Erica McGuinness (right), later a star at UBC, is honoured by Birds head coach Deb Huband. (Photo by Richard Lam property of UBC athletics 2021. All Rights Reserved)

If you’ve invested any amount of time following girls and women’s basketball in B.C., I am sure that right about now you’ve got a reaction.

But before I get into a little more nitty-gritty regarding my own selections, here’s the thing that I feel is most important: Regardless of who made what pick, I just wanted this list to represent, as best as such a list can, the eras, the dynasties, and the singular talents that have made the B.C. girls game so special..

That’s my simple way of saying that while I love my picks, I also love Steve’s.

And let’s not forget that while we’re living in a truly amazing version of the information age, there are no fantasy guides to consult here.

From 1948 through 2021, we’ve got published lists of provincial champions, but regularly-accessible lists of all-stars don’t start until 1977.

Stats, as in virtually all B.C. high school sports, are either non-existent or incomplete.

And thus I went with what I know, who I watched live, and who I have come to understand, through their future accomplishments in the game, to be richly deserving.

I never saw Bev Smith play in high school, but I trust my sources who watched her play for Salmon Arm in the 1970s. And it would be folly to say I disregarded everything else she accomplished at Oregon and on the world stage with our national team as a pioneering symbol of Canadian basketball.

By the same token, I saw Kris Young play live for nine straight years, from ninth grade at North Vancouver’s Handsworth Secondary where she won two B.C. titles and an MVP award, through five years at UBC in which she became the Thunderbirds’ all-time regular-season scoring leader.

Unfortunately, I haven’t seen everybody.

Here then is a little bit of a deeper dive into my list:

2 BEV SMITH (Salmon Arm, 1978) — A three-time B.C. first-team all-star who led Salmon Arm to three B.C. titles in the open-tiered era (pre-1981). A college star at Oregon, she was named to the Pac 12’s All-Century team in 2016. Played in two Olympic Games (1984, 1996) and resides in both Canadian and Women’s basketball hall of fames.

4 AISLINN KONIG (Brookswood, 2017) — Led Brookswood to three straight B.C. top-tiered titles (2014-16), was named tournament MVP in all three of those seasons and in 2015 also named Top Defensive Player. After starring at North Carolina State has now embarked on a professional career.

6 ALLISON MCNEILL (Salmon Arm, 1977) — A two-time B.C. first team all-star at point guard, helped lead Salmon Arm to two B.C. titles (1976-77) before helping lead Sudbury’s Laurentian Voyageurs to back-to-back CIAU (U Sports) national titles (1978-79). Closed out college career as Oregon’s captain, leading Ducks to a No. 11 ranking nationally.

8 BEV BLAND (Richmond, 1970) — A first-team all-star at the 1970 provincial championships, the 5-10 shooting guard would later lead Canada in scoring at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

10 CAROL TURNEY (Chilliwack, 1974) — A prolific 5-foot-10 guard and two-time B.C. high school all-star (1973-74) she lit up the Canadian university women’s basketball world to the tune of 21.1 ppg. Led both UBC and Victoria to national titles, competed for Canada in 1976 Olympics and 1979 world championships.

12 RUTH HAMBLIN (Houston Christian, 2012) — The 6-foot-6 centre led Houston Christian to back-to-back B.C. high school championships before embarking on a Pac 12 career at Oregon State where she set the conference’s blocked shot record. Selected 18th overall in 2016 WNBA draft and continues to play professionally.

14 MICHELLE HENDRY (Caledonia, 1987) — A first-team all-star at the 1987 B.C. championships, the Terrace native was named top-tiered MVP in 1988 despite the fact her Kermodes did not finish in the top three. Later starred as the frontcourt centrepiece of Simon Fraser’s NAIA powerhouse under Allison McNeill. Played for Canada at the 2000 Olympics.

16 ERIN CARSON (Abbotsford, 1984) — A two-time first-team all-star, Carson led the Panthers to back-to-back top-tiered B.C. title-game appearances including a championship in her senior year, before later captaining the first NCAA tournament team at the University of Colorado in 1988.

18 TAYA HANSON (Kelowna, 2018) — In her senior year earned tournament MVP honours in leading the Owls to their first-ever provincial title. Just coming off her junior season in the Pac 12 at Arizona State.

20 ERIN CHAMBERS (Heritage Park, 2011) — A senior varsity fixture for all five of her high school seasons, defined herself as one of the most versatile players in provincial history. In 2015, her senior year at Simon Fraser, set the all-time single-GNAC scoring record at 23.5 ppg.

22 LOUISE FORSYTH (Brookswood, 2017) — A five-year player with the Bobcats, the talented, thrice-ringed Forsyth may have appeared in more championship-round games at the provincial tourney than any player in B.C. history. Currently in her senior year with the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

24 TAVIA ROWELL (Walnut Grove, 2019) — A two-time first team all-star at the B.C. championships, played with a heart-and-soul demeanour that inspired her teammates to a pair of championship finals appearances. Currently playing collegiately at Grand Canyon State.

26 EMMA WOLFRAM (South Kamloops, 2013) — Played as a dominant a three-year stretch as any front-court player in tournament history, not only winning back-to-back MVPs in the Titans two championship runs, but also winning three straight Most Outstanding Defensive Player awards before playing collegiately at Gonzaga.

28 KRIS YOUNG (Handsworth, 2010) — Graceful scorer, the swing forward led North Van’s Royals to back-to-back B.C. AAA titles, and was named tournament MVP as a senior in 2010. As mentioned, UBC’s all-time Canada West regular season points leader. The all-time UBC scoring record is held by fellow Handsworth player Erica McGuinness.

30 DIANA LEE (Handsworth, 2010) — Rain the point guard position to perfection as part of Handsworth’s back-to-back B.C. titles. Teamming with Young, Lee was named the 2009 tourney MVP before embarking on a career at Boise State, and later, at UBC.

32 ASHLEY BURKE (Argyle, 2002) — A two-time Triple A provincial all-star pick, Burke was a tremendous all-round high school player who took her game to a new level at Gonzaga where by her junior year, she had become just the ninth Zag to reach 1,000 points.

34 LEANNE EVANS (Port Moody, 2004) — A first team Triple A all-star in 2004, she was the definition of a rebounder’s rebounder. Later played at UBC.

36 TARA WALLACK(Semiahmoo, 2021) — She was the star attraction in the last girls high school game played in B.C., scoring 29 points and grabbing 23 rebounds in the Totems’ 2020 B.C. title win over Terry Fox. Brings a unique package of power and finesse to Pac 12 Washington State next season. 

38 KELSEY ADRIAN (Brookswood, 2006) — A three-time B.C. AAA champion at Brookswood, the 6-foot-1 Adrian was a Grade 11 when she was named MVP in 2006. Played collegiately with both Cal and UC Santa Barbara,

40 SUSAN EWANICK (Vanderhoof, 1984) — A scoring machine without equal in her era, Ewanick led her Vanderhoof Viqueens to two B.C. Single-A titles (1983-84) and was also a two-time MVP before later playing at Simon Fraser.

Earlier this week, I reminded Bruce Langford that if people get upset with this list it’s all right, because at least girls high school basketball is being discussed.

“I agree, it’s not being talked about nearly enough, and you know what you should put at the end of your article?” added Langford. “The thing that would most make my day is that the comment box below, where they could all write ‘How could you miss so and so!’ But tell them it’s one thing to give their opinion… they need to also tell you their reasons why.”

So loyal readers of Varsity Letters, please feel free to speak your mind in the comment box below. I will refresh it on a regular basis for all to see.

Girls high school basketball will be all the better for it.

Heritage Park’s Erin Chambers (right) later starred for the SFU Clan. (Photo by Ron Hole property of Simon Fraser athletics 2021. All Rights Reserved)

If you’re reading this story or viewing these photos on any website other than one belonging to a university athletic department, it has 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 howardtsumura@gmail.com.

14 thoughts on “Top 40 B.C. High School Girls basketball players of all time! Tsumura and Ewen produce a pioneering list! Let the debates begin!

  1. Not sure you can rank girls that haven’t even graduated yet! This is a list of best of all time! Key word time? This list should only include those that have made it post secondary and beyond!

    1. I agree ☝️!! 2021 players need to prove themselves at the next level before they can be considered pioneering greats

  2. Sheila Townsend, Pitt Meadows Secondary
    -played with UBC from 2000-2005, leading the Thunderbirds to their first national title in 2004.
    – two time Canada West All-Star, a Second Team All-Canadian in 2004-05, and a CIS Championship All-Star in 2004.
    -played professionally in Australia, Germany, and the Czech Republic
    – represented Canada on the national team from 2004-07.

  3. Very tough job to do. Many could be mentioned. Very deserving is Joby McKenzie who won high school provincial championship at Hatzic Secondary and went on to SFU.
    Joby (1994-98) led SFU to four conference championships and four consecutive trips to the NAIA national championship tournament, including the school’s first-ever Final Four appearance her senior season.

    Although SFU lost 66-63 to Southern Nazarene at the Final Four, McKenzie was named a tournament all-star and NAIA All-American. McKenzie averaged 12 points and 8.6 rebounds during her career and SFU won 116 of 140 games she played. She held records for most rebounds in a game (21) and season (375) upon graduation from SFU with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry.

    McKenzie played for the Canadian National team from 1998-2001, winning a silver medal at the 1999 Pan American Games, representing the country at the 1999 Summer Universiade (World University Championships) and helping Canada qualify for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She is a member of the Basketball BC Hall of Fame.

    McKenzie also holds a Doctorate in Philosophy (PhD), Molecular and Medical Genetics, from the University of Toronto, and a Master’s in Business Administration, with a specialization in health care from the Richard Ivey School of Business.

  4. How is Maryn Budiman not on this list? Kid was ungaurdable her senior year winning the AAA title and Tourney MVP as a 6 seed beating undefeated Oakbay …

  5. Lisa Anderson – led Arbutus to B. C. junior girls title
    -played in B. C. tournament in grade 9-12
    -led Mount Douglas to the 3A girls championship game against Salmon Arm; went head-to-head with Erin Gibbons in an overtime championship game; Gibbons scored 42 and is ranked 19 while Anderson scored 37 is not included at all; many people still consider the best high-school girls game ever played
    -Anderson played for U17 provincial team and twice for Canadian university games team
    -played five years at UVic, named Canada West rookie of the year and Canada West all-star
    -won a CIS national championship at UVic
    -and NOT included in the top 40…..

  6. Natalie Doma – played in B. C. tournaments in grades 9-12
    -led Mount Doug to championship final vs. Brookswood; led tournament in scoring and despite losing in the final was named MVP
    -played for B. C. U17 team and Canadian youth squads
    -went to Idaho State University; led team to two NCAA tournament appearances
    -left Idaho State as all-time leading scorer and rebounder in the history of the Big Sky Conference, not just her school; named one of the Big Sky Conference’s Top-50 All-Time Athletes across all sports
    -played professionally in Switzerland and France and attended training camp with Seattle Storm
    -and not include on this list…..

  7. Thanks for doing this!! Lots of greats mentioned and missed!! Nice to reminisce about BC talent. Lori Clarke….standout in high school in Abbotsford, university, pro in the best leagues in France and Germany and National teamer for many a year!
    Carrie Watts!!!

  8. I appreciate this as a thought experiment. However, this kind of thing while promoting interest and discussion can unintentionally diminish great players and accomplishments.
    I personally would argue the rankings of some, but for the most part it is hard to argue any of the selections as being worthy of consideration.
    No list of this kind can omit Tracey McAra. By any measure one of the best of all time. This list is very light on ‘pioneers’ who didn’t have the advantages of the current generation. For example, Barb Robertson, from Ocean Falls, one of the world’s (!) first ‘jump shooters’. Her shot was as pretty as Steph Curry’s. The first female player to awe me was Heather Witzel from Courtney. She went on to a fine university and National Team career. Her sister Rose was almost equally as good. Terri McGovern was arguably the best player on the great UBC dynasty of the ‘70’s until she blew out both knees on one play. Janice Fowler was the equal of many on this list, as were Joanne Sargeant, Debbie Phalen etc. etc.
    It’s a fine line between being on the list and not. Case in point; if Mt. Doug had scored one more basket in regulation time, or two more in OT, would Lindsey Anderson be on the list ahead of, or instead of Erin Gibbons? They were equals in that tourny…no question.
    Finally, thrilled that Susan Ewanick was included.One of the best high school players of her era. Her small school beat everyone regardless of size.

  9. I believe you missed one of the best in Canada, never mind BC. Check out her records and Hall of Fames for Joanne Sargent, Salmon Arm.

  10. Seems odd not having one player coming from New Westminster Secondary School ( Hyacks ). They have been in more BC Girls Basketball Provincial Championships Tournaments since it started back in 1949.

  11. …thanks Howard and all who volunteered for the firing squad by creating by its nature, this contentious list. Tough enough comparing players generally, let alone players from different eras!! Well done to all! And, I would be remiss for not saying thanks for selecting Michelle Hendry, one of my ex players from tiny Terrace, who led our Caledonia team to 3rd and 4th place finishes after knocking off the number one seeds both years. She was not only a fine player who went on to a great career at SFU, competing in the Olympics for CANADIAN Woman’s team and a pro career in Europe, but , more importantly was a humble, team first player, who often asked me as coach to ensure one of her teammates got selected to all-star teams at tournaments instead of her! And her determination, work ethic and willingness to improve was all excellent! Basketball is a team game however,and the success of any girls team I have coached is shared by all team players,my Terrace teams no exception! And, Michelle and they overcame the obstacles of coming from a small and geographically more isolated town. As someone who had the good fortune of playing high school, Jr. league and college / university sports in the Lower Mainland, and, one who then coached both Sr. Boys and Girls Bball around the province ( East Kootenays- Golden, Northwest – Terrace and Vancouver Island (Comox Valley), and, a parent who supported four small town athletic playing sons ( 2 of whom went on to CIS basketball careers and captain their teams), I want to give kudos to both remote community coaches and Provincial and Regional Bball team organizers / coaches for their work in enabling OPPORTUNTIES for small town girls and boys for exposure and skill development and selection leading to post secondary opportunities/ success whilst fostering growth PROVINCIALLY of the girls / boys game with provincial team regional camps and try- outs! (… There were also unscrupulous characters , rarely, who were city coaches who would attempt to recruit small town girls from these camps and I recall one year on the BC School sports executive overturning a request from a family to transfer their daughter to a big city public school after she was identified in such a camp. Happy ending as said player stayed in her home very small town and played leading her team to a championship, and, interestingly helping defeat that same city school and coach, who had recruited her, in the provincials. The small town held a parade for the team illustrating the pride smaller communities have in their own, and, more importantly DOES NOT send the message to small town athletically gifted kids that in order to find athletic success it WILL be necessary to leave town! Think about that statement for a second. Imagine if the message coming from your community that in order to achieve success you MUST leave to larger centres, in high school. Thankfully, society is recognizing more the value of staying with family / community during teenage formative years.
    On another note, Living and playing in the Lower Mainland was so much easier and less expensive than in remote communities. I got a first hand view of both. Overnight travel and associated cost were minimal compared to those from small towns. Yet athletic ability and potential can be equal. Some of your selections reflect that fact with some girls having played in , for example, Houston, Salmon Arm, Terrace, Vanderhof, and many others who were not selected who came from smaller communities went on to success, like Kitimat’s Izzy Maranchuk- Went on to captain Univ. Of Oregon), for example in late ’80’s. As a coach in the East Kootenays ( sr. Boys then) we had to travel through a time zone change just to play a league game against one team. In order to remain competitive travel to strong competition was time consuming and costly. ( e.g. East Kootenays travelling to Alberta and to the coast for games, from Terrace travelling by air to Vancouver and / or – 17 hours one way ,with coach driving , to Salmon Arm just for two games ( against # 1 ranked team). FundrAising was continual and immense and creating support for less affluent players to be able to NOT be left behind as we were ‘ public’ equal opportunity schools, left me wondering at times how and why we did it and marvelling at opposition coaching colleagues who had done so fundraising for years for equal opportunity for girls in basketball. I think my travel budget required for my Caledonia teams in Terrace in 86-87 and 87- 88 when we were final four finalists both years having knocked off the number one seeds both years, was around 10,000. Requiring year round fundraising. Parental and community time, organization and support was massive and yearlong. Same elsewhere rurally. It was so cool to see the names of girls from around the province who were selected and think back on the many others from small towns who were exceptional players despite the odds.
    On a lighter note, sometimes as a coach you had to get creative to ensure that your small community team could and would believe that they could compete with the top schools!
    . A quick story: Salmon Arm Secondary has a long history of provincially strong teams. When I was coaching in Terrace, we lost to A well coached Terry Michel’s Salmon Arm team in the semis at the ’87 Provincials. With a strong returning team I wanted to schedule Terry ‘s team, who also had a strong returning roster, for exhibition games for the next season , to help convince our girls that we were just as good as they were, and we agreed on a home and home series, of four games. This involved a 17 hour bus ride, one way, to play each other. I do not think I travelled 17 hours in a season in my high school days in Vancouver going to games, we’ll certainly nothing even close to this. We went to Salmon Arm first, I think prior to CHRISTMAS and lost both games handily. In the New Year, we played again and we lost Friday night In a closer game in front of a huge crowd in Terrace. My coaching speeches about how we were just as good as the ‘Jewels’ was beginning to lose its lustre and effect after three losses so creativity was required. That evening I convinced Salmon Arm coach and friend Terry Michel to take his team to the Hot Springs during the next day as a team outing recommending it as a good team bonding fun activity. We did not play until Sat. Evening and it would be cool for his girls to see some of the local geography ( Terry taught Geography!) in the NorthWest. He agreed and I met him at Layton Hot Springs. “where are your girls? Asked Terry. “…most have Committments ( jobs, studying, I fibbed). The Salmon Arm girls seemed to really enjoy the Hot Springs and stayed in the water a long time!! Surprisingly, my Caledonia ( Terrace) girls seemed to have more pep in our game that evening and much to the delight of the hometown Terrace crowd we defeated the ‘tired-looking’ Salmon Arm team,and, at the B.C.’s later in the year upset the Number 1 ranked Jewels by a point in the quarter finals. Terry Michel, a fine coach and man, has never forgiven me for taking his girls to the Hot Springs!! Thanks for all of your work, Howard and all! Especially for your efforts promoting high school girls and boys basketball!

  12. Andrea Schnider, DTSS , 1988 in the East Kootenays had a great career at SFU , setting NAIA assist records and having her jersey retired along with Jay Triano and Michelle Hendry. I’m sure at least an honourable mention.

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