Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe was a one-woman show on a skeleton roster.
With senior players unavailable, the Simon Fraser University Clan entered its first year of NCAA Division 2 women’s basketball missing 11 bodies. They ran with four rookies, three sophomores and one third-year player.
“There were a lot of issues with eligibility, so we ended up with half a team basically,” said Raincock-Ekunwe, a Kalamalka Laker grad.
“I went from playing 10 minutes a game (as a freshman) to 38. It was tough cardio-wise. It was tough on all our bodies, but it’s better than playing from the bench,” she said.
The 6-foot-2 sophomore said it was a challenging transition for the Clan to move out of Canada West (CIS), but on an individual level, she sparkled, taking full advantage of the extra floor time.
She ranked No. 2 in the GNAC (Great Northwest Athletic Conference) in defensive rebounds per game (8.3), fifth in total rebounds per game (12.04), sixth in field goal percentage (0.576) and 11th in points per game (18.4).
Combined with top-30 listings in blocks and offensive rebounds per game, and total rebounds (265), it added up to first team all-conference recognition. It also earned her Basketball B.C.’s Outstanding Female University Player honours.
Said Lawrie Johns, executive director of Basketball B.C.: “These awards are a means of recognizing the outstanding level of dedication to excellence that has been demonstrated by these individuals.”
Mild-mannered by nature, Raincock-Ekunwe has had to work diligently at being more self-assured on the court. She says it has served her well in the NCAA.
“Americans are tough. They take their basketball seriously down there,” she grinned.
SFU head coach Bruce Langford still sees room for improvement in the Coldstream product’s confidence.
“I’d like to see her become more assertive in her game. Despite her numbers, she could take the game on her shoulders a bit more,” said Langford, adding Raincock-Ekunwe has natural athleticism to become an elite game-breaker.
“She’s one of the best rebounders in the country, and she is significantly stronger than she has ever been.”
Raincock-Ekunwe, who recently auditioned for the national women’s team competing at the World University Games, Aug. 13-17 in China, says the roster situation on Burnaby Mountain looks a lot better heading into her junior year. With no players leaving and four new recruits already committed to the program, she is hoping the Clan can build off a promising 7-17 season.
One of those newcomers is highly touted Erin Chambers, a 6-foot-1 guard, who began playing with Mission’s Heritage Park Highlanders senior team as a 13-year-old.
Joining Raincock-Ekunwe in taking top B.C. university player honours was Jacob Doerksen (Trinity Western University Spartans of Langley).
Outstanding High School Player Awards went to Lexie Der (St. Thomas More Knights of Burnaby) and David Wagner (South Kamloops Titans).
College player awards went to Jenna Kantz (UBC Okanagan Heat) and Andrew Kaban (Vancouver Island University Mariners of Nanaimo).
Out-of-province players earning awards were Katie Miyazaki (Saskatchewan Huskies) and Phil Scrubb (Carleton Ravens), while out-of-Canada recognition went to Megan Pinske (Western Washington Vikings) and Robert Sacre (Gonzaga Bulldogs).
Raincock-Ekunwe will be in Vernon for the summer working a student job at the Upper Room Mission. She also works part time at Original Joe’s restaurant.