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Sam Bassett spends summer with provincial hoop team

Sam Bassett

Sam Bassett of Fort Macleod played U16 basketball this summer for Team Alberta.

Sam Bassett of Fort Macleod made progress this summer toward turning her hoop dream into reality.
The five foot six, 150-pound point guard overcame the odds to make the provincial U16 girls’ basketball team.
Sam was the only girl from a town the size of Fort Macleod to crack the 14-player roster, following in the footsteps of aunts Lindy and Marie Lauder.
“They said it was a really good experience,” Sam said of her aunts, who both played for Team Alberta. “I really just wanted to try it and see if I could make it, see how far hard work would take me.”
Team Alberta was the first team on which 16-year-old Sam has played besides the F.P. Walshe Flyers, a 2A high school in Fort Macleod.
Travelling to Edmonton last April for tryouts with 40 to 50 other girls, most of whom were from 4A high schools, was intimidating.
“It was an eye-opener,” said Sam of that first one-day camp. “My easy moves don’t work on these girls. I have to work a lot harder. The game is more intense, it’s fast moving. I learned a lot from it.”
The girls had just one day of two-hour practices to make Team Alberta.
“I was really nervous,” said Sam, who came from the most southern town and smallest community among the girls trying out.
Sam was surprised and shocked to find herself one of 14 girls to make the cut.
“When I made it I called everyone up and I was crying. I was surprised, shocked. I called Lindy right away because she basically trained me.”
Following the 2013 high school provincial basketball tournament Sam put in hours in the gym each day getting stronger and improving her cardio, followed by hours in the gym working on her shot leading up to the Team Alberta tryouts. She enlisted friend Raj Parmar and Aidan Kidd as workout partners.
“I went mostly for the experience,” said Sam, who the past two summers went to the Michael Jordan basketball camp in California. “I hoped I would make it but I wasn’t too hopeful. I was prepared for not making it because I have never played that level before.”
Team Alberta had a training camp in May but the June camp was cancelled due to all the flooding in Alberta.
The Team Alberta season started in July with a 1 1/2-week training camp in Edmonton followed by a tournament with five games, and then eight practices in four days.
The girls went home for two days, and then it was back to Edmonton for six practices in three days.
Team Alberta placed third in the first tournament, which included teams from other provinces as well as club teams from Edmonton and Calgary.
“We weren’t very happy about it, but for me it was an accomplishment,” Sam said.
There was 107 teams in a number of age categories competing on 12 courts and the noise was overwhelming for the small town girl from Fort Macleod.
Team Alberta was competing against 24 top teams in the tournament, which was won by the Edmonton Pandas club team.
In the next tournament Team Alberta played nine games in two days at Edmonton against teams from other provinces and the United States.
Once again, Team Alberta finished third in the tournament.
“It was a lot more intense, because we played U17 teams instead of our age,” Sam said. “We were happy with that (third place).”
Playing for Team Alberta was a learning experience for Sam both on and off the court.
On the court Sam was forced to sharpen her skills in order to succeed against taller and talented girls with lots of experience.
“I learned a lot as a guard,” Sam said, noting that while she has quick feet and hands, she has to improve her outside shooting.
Off the court Team Alberta was forced to bond and become teammates in a hurry. It was a challenge for the girls, most of whom are stars on their school teams, to learn they had to use their teammates in order to be successful.
“It was really frustrating at first because no one wanted to take that leap of faith to trust each other to do their job.”
Most of the girls on Team Alberta played on rival teams and had a dislike for each other formed in fierce competition.
“Everyone tried to do too much. They tried to take the games into their own hands,” Sam said. “During the season you can do that but when you’re playing the State and provincial teams you can’t do that . . . When we finally figured that out, we did a lot better.”
It was after the first tournament, during the six practices in three days, that the girls started to come together as a unit. The girls learned each other’s style of play and some chemistry developed.
With a summer of playing on the provincial team behind her, Sam is already focused on the 2013-’14 high school season.
Determined to play basketball at the collegiate or university level — again following in the footsteps of her aunts, who both earned athletic scholarships to U.S. schools — Sam is giving up volleyball and rugby to concentrate on basketball.
It’s not a sacrifice to give up the other sports for a girl who has had a basketball in her hands since she was able to walk.
“I love the adrenalin rush it gives me,” Sam said of basketball being her chosen sport. “I just love the sport. It’s fun and exciting and just such an intense game.”
One of the areas in which the Grade 11 student will concentrate is leadership, crediting former teammate Naomi Burbank for teaching her about being a leader.
Naomi was a positive force on the Flyers, praising her teammates for good plays and helping them forget about mistakes and move forward. The Grade 12 player was a calming influence on the Flyers.
“I think that’s what a true leader is, and I learned a lot from her. I’m really going to miss her.”
Sam will attend basketball camps in the city leading up to the high school season, with high hopes for the Flyers.
“I want to win provincials. I think our team this year has a lot of potential,” Sam said. “Our team is so strong. We’re ready for it, I think this season is going to be a good one.”

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