If you know anything about the Hopf family, you’ll know hockey is their thing.
But there’s a Hopf family member who’s making a name for herself in a completely different sport and she’ll be using it to help further her education.
Presley Hopf of the Deninu Kue First Nation has signed on to play with Mount Royal University’s women’s basketball team in Calgary beginning next season. The best part? It’s a full tuition scholarship, meaning the 17-year-old won’t have to pay for her post-secondary matriculation.
“I thought about the U.S., but I always wanted to stay in Canada,” said Hopf.
Hopf, who was born in Yellowknife, has been playing some of the highest level of hoops in North American courtesy of her roster spot with AthElite Basketball, a high-performance club based in Surrey, B.C. AthElite is aligned with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), considered to be one of the best sports organizations in the world.
“We’ve been to Colorado, Dallas, Louisville, all over,” she said. “We had a tournament in Calgary and that’s what got me thinking about going to Mount Royal.”
After a tour of the campus and a couple of other visits, Hopf decided Mount Royal was where she wanted to be.
“You have to go with your gut and that’s what I did,” she said. “I had offers from about eight to 10 other schools and some Division II and III schools in the U.S., but that’s not what I wanted.”
Hopf began playing basketball in the GO-Ball program when she lived in Yellowknife. The GO stands for Girls Only and has been operating youth programs for young girls in the city for several years.
“I originally played hockey growing up, but I wanted to switch to basketball and that broke my dad’s heart,” she said with a laugh. “Tobi (Taylor-Dusome) was such a big influence when I started playing. She actually bumped me up a couple of age groups.”
Her brother, Keaton, was another influence, she added.
“He’s actually the main reason I started playing basketball,” she said. “All our family did was play hockey and then he and my cousin started playing. It looked so amazing to me, so I started going to the basement and setting up the hockey cones we had to dribble around them and get better.”
Hopf moved to Kelowna, B.C., with her family at the age of 10 and the move was done with basketball in mind.
“It was such a big sacrifice to move down south,” said Hopf. “We knew we had to do that for more opportunities. I got to play AAU and I played with Team B.C. and that’s what got me to playing at Mount Royal.”
Hopf realizes that she’s one of the lucky ones when you consider the math. Around 35,000 girls are playing high school basketball each season across Canada and there are just 52 university teams playing U Sports women’s basketball. A team usually consists of 12 roster spots, meaning that there is a roughly two per cent chance that a player will ever see a minute of action on a university basketball court.
That fact isn’t lost on Hopf — she knows what this opportunity means to her.
“Only a small percentage of athletes get to play university (basketball) and it’s even smaller when you’re an Indigenous athlete,” she said. “That runs so deep to me and I want to be that role model for young female Indigenous athletes who are growing up. There’s nothing stopping you, even if you’re in the NWT. I may be living in B.C. and I’ll be going to school in Alberta, but the NWT is always my home.”