Smeltzer, Bjorndalen headed to Ontario college

Josh Lewis / Estevan Mercury
June 27, 2012 01:00 AM

Two members of the Estevan Comprehensive School senior girls' basketball team will continue their careers at the post-secondary level next year.

Graduating players Larissa Smeltzer and Bridget Bjorndalen have both been recruited to play for the Redeemer University College Royals in Ancaster, Ont., near Hamilton.

Smeltzer and Bjorndalen were among the Grade 12 leaders on last year's Elecs squad.

"It means the world to me," Bjorndalen said of being able to continue her basketball career.

For her, it will be a brand new experience, but Smeltzer is very familiar with the area.

"My sister (Yakira) is going to school half an hour up the road at Brock, so I looked for schools close to her and to (extended) family in London," Smeltzer said.

The process began when she met with Redeemer assistant coach Greg Best and told him about her basketball experience.

In January, Best flew to a tournament in Weyburn that the Elecs were playing. He was there to watch Smeltzer, but Bjorndalen also caught his eye.

"They came down to a tournament in Weyburn and watched her play, and they watched me, then they came up to me afterward and asked me if I wanted to go play for them," said Bjorndalen.

Smeltzer will play as either a wing or a post player for the Royals and Bjorndalen will play a wing position.

A Redeemer news release spoke highly of both players and their skill sets.

"(Smeltzer) has been the most solid performer on her high school team throughout her high school career," the release said. "She has averaged over 10 points per game with her high school team. She is also a ferocious rebounder who often has double-digit rebounds.

"Bridget only took up basketball three years ago, however, she is one of the toughest defenders in the province," it continued. "She shoots the basketball very well and sees the court exceptionally well while distributing the basketball to her teammates."

Smeltzer said she doesn't let her emotions get the best of her on the court, adding that versatility and sportsmanship are strengths of her game.

"My coach (Jessie Elias) says I'm a very good shooter. She always says that I play a very good composed game and I don't freak out," Smeltzer said.

Bjorndalen hopes she'll be able to take on a leadership role with the Royals, as she did with the Elecs.

"I put my heart and soul into the game and it's one of my passions and I love to do it. When I'm playing, I do my all and try to be the best I can be and contribute what I can to the team," she said.

"(Elias) had big expectations for me and always saw something in me that I never saw in the beginning. She really pushed me to become what I am now," she added.

Both players said it's long been their goal to play basketball at the university level.

Smeltzer said it's been her dream since switching from water polo to basketball in Grade 6.

One of her reasons for wanting to extend her career was "knowing that I couldn't sit in the stands and watch someone else play a game that I love."

Smeltzer said it will be hard to leave her parents, but she looks forward to reconnecting with part of her family that she has only seen during yearly visits in the summer.

"It's more like a home away from home. I'm really excited to be closer to my sister and my grandparents, my extended family."

Bjorndalen, meanwhile, has a different perspective on her upcoming adventure.

"It's going to be hard saying goodbye to everybody, (but) I'm really excited. It's going to be a brand new experience for me."

© Copyright Estevan Mercury


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