Walnut Grove's Tavia Rowell heads into the B.C. championships on Wednesday as a repeat winner of the BCSSGBA's Player of the Year award. (Photo by Wilson Wong 2019. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Girls Basketball

Walnut Grove’s Tavia Rowell: Coaches, trainers, rivals all applaud B.C.’s Player of the Year repeat winner for her passion and her integrity

LANGLEY — The first girls high school basketball story ever covered under the Varsity Letters masthead? 

It came on the very first day of our launch (January 31, 2017) and it was all about an amazing Grade 10 basketball player with Langley’s Walnut Grove Gators named Tavia Rowell.

It was headlined ‘Baskets by the Bushel’ and it told the story of how Rowell gained her intense work ethic by rising before the sun each morning on her family’s former Abbotsford farm, heading to a coup which housed over 100 chickens, and collecting all of the eggs before grabbing her basketball and heading off to school. (Click here to read that story)

Just over two years later, she’s still, in a sense, carrying all of those eggs, but in a lot of different figurative baskets.

For the second straight year, the B.C. Secondary Schools Girls Basketball Association has named the 5-foot-10 guard its Baden BCSSGBA Player of the Year.

On Wednesday, Rowell prepares to lead her Gators for the final time at the B.C. senior girls AAA basketball championships, which begin a four-day run at the Langley Events Centre.

And next season, she embarks on her collegiate basketball career, heading off to Phoenix to join the NCAA Div. 1 Grant Canyon Antelopes of the Western Athletic Conference.

Today, in tribute to a high school career so richly decorated, and to an on-court sense of purpose which has made her a role model to so many younger players around the province, VarsityLetters.ca spoke to three people who have not only helped her along her way, but learned a little bit about themselves in the process.

Trainer Dwayne Selby has been impressed by Tavia Rowell’s blend of talent and humility. (Photo courtesy Dwayne Selby)

DWAYNE SELBY (trainer, Playmakers Basketball)

Varsity Letters: What’s a good example of how dedicated Tavia Rowell is to her craft?

Dwayne Selby: It’s her desire and hunger to improve. That’s what separates her from others her age. Sometimes in a work-out, she will spend two hours on the same move. She is so attention-to-detail oriented that she does it until it is 100 per cent what she wants, down to even the rhythm of momentum. To her, it’s not just about putting the ball in the basket.

VL: Have you noticed how her incredible level of compete can so quickly give way to such a poised and mature young person the second she steps off the court?

DS: Yes, I noticed that after our first training session. I had some sixth graders helping out with rebounding, and at the end of the work out, she went around to every one of those kids, shook their hands and thanked them for helping. A lot of high school kids, especially stud players like her, have an attitude. So to have that personality trait and that kind of humility, that’s huge.

VL: What about watching her play in big games like this week’s provincials?

DS: Just as she has a refusal to not be successful in training sessions, she has a refusal to lose. When I watch her, she walks in the gym like she is there to get a job done. She is able to rise to the moment and not let fear stop her from doing what she loves to do, and that is to play basketball at the highest level.

Longtime girls basketball coach at Walnut Grove Secondary, Grant Inkster, pictured here clutching the orange juice container his 2018 B.C. champion Gators rallied around last season, was Tavia Rowell’s first high school coach. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of VarsityLetters.ca 2019. All Rights Reserved)

GRANT INKSTER (longtime Walnut Grove basketball coach)

VL: You have coached at all levels of WGSS hoops, including back in the 2014-15 season when you were Tavia’s head coach on the Grade 8 team. Who has she become as a person as you’ve watched her grow?

Grant Inkster: Well, she is just a very special kid. She is someone who identifies with adults as well as her peers. Some kids are one way or the other. Tavia can giggle and act like a normal teenager, but put her in a room full of adults and she can converse with everyone.

VL: What are the tell-tale signs of how much she has loved her time as a student-athlete at the school, as well as how much she just loves being around the game?

GI: She is very much this competitive woman you see on the floor during games. But as soon as they end, a little switch gets pulled and that person disappears. She is just the sweetest person to be around. Just positive, positive, positive. She is a relentless giver of her time. Scorekeeping. Setting up bleachers. Sweeping the floor. She loves being in the gym, and she loves all aspects of basketball, and this playing, watching and supporting.

Brookswood Bobcats head coach Chris Veale says the joy in Tavia Rowell’s game is infectious. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of VarsityLetters.ca 2019. All Rights Reserved)

CHRIS VEALE (head coach, Brookswood senior varsity)

VL: You’ve coached against Tavia for years. When you see her in the pre-game shoot-around sporting cuts, bruises and shiners, does anything more need to be said about how she approaches this game?

Chris Veale: When you are one of top players in province, when you’re the biggest threat of anyone, people are coming at you, and for lack of better term, she takes it on the chin. But she has this competitive will, and the only thing I can compare it to is when I was coaching Ace (North Carolina State’s Aislinn Konig, who was the two-time B.C. POY with Brookswood in 2015, 2016).

VL: It’s hard to express, but she seems to walk a very fine line out there between being completely engrossed in beating you, yet still showing in the true spirit of the game, the joy she gets from competing. Would you agree?

CV: To be honest, she always looks like she’s having fun. And if it’s not fun, then it becomes a job. She always sees the lighter side of the game. She has a smile on her face and when she makes a nice pass, I think she gets more excited for someone else to finish than herself. That says a lot about a kid, that she’s happy when others are successful.

The goofy side of Tavia Rowell? Last season, during halftime of the B.C. junior girls championship final at the LEC, she was having fun in the festivities.(Photo by Howard Tsumura property of VarsityLetters.ca 2019. All Rights Reserved)

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