Welcome to another season of high-performance girls basketball in Yellowknife. One which everyone involved hopes will be different than the last one.

The Eagles program is getting its ducks in a row for the 2021-22 season and that means hosting tryouts for the three teams under the program’s banner: U19, U15 and U13. The U19 and U15 tryouts are all over while the U13 division is having its final look-see on Wednesday evening at William McDonald Gymnasium at 6 p.m.

The U19 division finished things up at St. Pat’s Gymnasium on Saturday with coaches head coach Aaron Wells and assistants Scott Green, Kyla Lesage and Sierra Nesbitt having the task of figuring out who will be wearing the colours.

Taya Straker, left, starts the fast-break as Lily Lloyd gives chase during the U19 Eagles Basketball tryouts at St. Pat’s Gymnasium on Saturday. James McCarthy/NNSL photo

Wells said Saturday was merely finalizing the last few spots.

“It was a good week (of tryouts),” he said. “A lot of good talent coming up from the younger programs — that’s good to see —and we’re finally looking forward to getting things started after the worst of Covid-19.”

One thing the girls had over the course of the tryouts, said Wells, was rust but something else he saw was hunger.

“You can tell they missed being out there,” he said. “They’ve been working hard, really enjoying being back in the gym and I think that outweighs the rust. It’s nice to see the energy and the competition was great. Didn’t matter if it was one-on-one drills or five-on-five — they’ve been competing hard and talking and it’s been fun to watch.”

The U13 division will have an idea of what it will look like following proceedings on Wednesday.

Effie Lockhart tries to control the bouncing ball during the U19 Eagles Basketball tryouts at St. Pat’s Gymnasium on Saturday. James McCarthy/NNSL photo

Tina Locke-Setter, one of the assistant coaches alongside head coach Richelle Castillo, said around a dozen players came out to the first tryout and there’s always room for more.

“We would love to talk to people who want to reach out that are interested in giving this a go,” she said.

U13 is the youngest division in the program and while there is a competitive aspect to it, Locke-Setter said it serves as more of an introduction to the Eagles.

“Some of the players have gone through the grassroots (GO Ball, Steve Nash Youth Hoops) but we have some who are playing for the very first time,” she said. “We cover the fundamentals and we mix in some strategy and philosophies so they’re able to progress through.”

Chizuko Robson-Hamilton, left, throws up a guard against Reanna Brownlee during the U19 Eagles Basketball tryouts at St. Pat’s Gymnasium on Saturday. James McCarthy/NNSL photo

Being that it’s a girls-only program also brings a level of comfort for the players, she added.

“You may get girls who don’t know each other but we’re one big family,” she said. “We want them to know that there are people who will support them and help them through the process.”

The U19 program will be playing in the Yk Basketball Association’s women’s league, which is scheduled to get up and running in January, but one of the big things the program wants to do is have some sort of travel this season.

It’s sibling vs. sibling as Mia Locke-Setter, left, looks for a passing option while being guarded by Kaylie Locke-Setter during the U19 Eagles Basketball tryouts at St. Pat’s Gymnasium on Saturday. James McCarthy/NNSL photo

Wells said his team is champing at the bit to fly somewhere.

“If we can (travel), we’re going, no doubt” he said. “If we can get to a tournament next month, we’re there. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get some fundraising in but I’m hoping we’ll be able to get in three or four tournaments before the end of May to make up for the better part of the last two years. They’re always asking when we’re going.”

The situation is a bit trickier for the U13 group as there are players who can’t yet be vaccinated due to being under the age of 12.

Locke-Setter said that’s not a big issue because Basketball NWT has taken care of all the return-to-play paperwork but there are limitations.

“Right now, we can’t have more than 25 in the gym due to restrictions from the (chief public health officer),” she said. “It hasn’t impacted us and if the situation improves, I’d like to see the girls head to at least one tournament. The U13 division has usually gone to one or two tournaments each year and we’d like to get them to at least one so they can get some game experience against other players they wouldn’t see all the time.”

James McCarthy

After being a nomad around North America following my semi-debauched post-secondary days, I put down my roots in Yellowknife in 2006. I’ve been keeping this sports seat warm with NNSL for the better...

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