Rode

Basketball Queens head coach has nice problem

RDP basketball Queens head coach Mandy Botham will have a tough decision to make once the ACAC regular season gets underway.

Botham has four imports on the 13-player roster and can only dress three per game.

However, she’s not that worried.

“It will work itself out,” she said.

Outstanding point guard Sandra Garcia-Bernal of Spain and Sophie Melin of Sweden return with Meja Lundberg of Sweden and Lauren France of the United Kingdom newcomers.

Both bring impressive resumes with them, although Lundberg has yet to arrive.

“Meja got her second vaccination recently and I suggested she quarantine the two weeks at home rather than over here,” explained Botham.

“So she should arrive shortly and I’m looking forward to seeing her. From what I’ve seen she shoots well, moves the ball and drives well. She’ll be a nice addition.”

As well France has already impressed. She’s listed at five-foot-11, giving the Queens some much needed height.

“She played a year in the States, then last year, the Covid year, she was at the University of Calgary,” said Botham.

“I’m really excited to add her. She’s shown a high basketball IQ, is a good shooter and finishes well.”

Overall Botham has six returnees including team leaders Heena Sidhu and Amy Szymanek, along with Derlan Geddes and Keanna Richards.

Sidhu was first in team scoring with 254 points and a 12.1 points-per-game average, first in assists with 90 and three-point shots made with 37.

Szymanek was third in team scoring with 204 points and a 10.2 ppg and second in rebounds with 121 to Garcia-Bernel’s 183.

“We have a strong group of veterans who are all strong players and have shown strong leadership.”

Two of the newcomers are from Central Alberta in Sadie Jeffries of Sylvan Lake and five-foot-11 Janal Hubert of LTCHS.

“Both have really impressed me,” Botham said. “Both trained with us last season. We didn’t play any games but they both got a year of practice time and you can see the improvement from even last year, it astounding.”

The other newcomers are Mira Witt of Saskatoon, who spent a year with UBC Okanagan, Emily Anderson of Winnipeg and guard Jordan Harris of Prince George.

Both Witt and Anderson can play guard or forward.

“Mira is strong defensively and another one who fits in well with the team,” said Botham. “As for Jordan, Prince George is my home town and I’ve watched her develop since Grade 8 and I’m excited to bring her in. She’s a first-year player but she hasn’t looked like it. She plays beyond her years.”

Anderson has also impressed. She played provincially in Manitoba and with the Winnipeg Wolves club program.

Botham spent a good deal of time recruiting during the off year.

“I wanted to make sure we put the right people in the right spots, not just athletes, but character people who can compete in the league. I know I’m looking forward to see what they can do.”

The Queens finished fifth in the South Division in 2019-20, one game out of the playoffs. They had a tough schedule which saw them face Briercrest three times in the first half, when the Clippers were ranked in the top 10 in the country. The second half BBC slid down the rankings after losing their coach and some players.

“That was tough as we missed the playoffs by the one game, but we also let a few games slip away in the second half we should have won,” Botham said. “We did show a big improvement that year, so I’m happy with that, but not satisfied with the final result.

“That’s something we want to change.”

The Queens were originally scheduled to host the ACAC playoffs in 2020-21 and then this season, but covid has changed all that.

This year the league cut three games off the schedule, which leaves an unbalanced schedule. However, six teams will make the playoffs with the top two receiving a bye in the first round.

All the playoff games will be sudden death with the top seed hosting.

“So If we’re not in the top 4 we won’t host a game, but right now we’re not worried about that, we’re just looking to play at the level we should.”

The Queens have been offered a chance to host the playoffs in the 2022-23 season.

“Hopefully everything is better by then,” Botham said.

She’s also hopes to see fans in the Gary W Harris Centre, much like all other athletic teams have in the province.

“It will be strange to play without fans for sure,” she said. “I’m not sure what will eventually happen but let’s hope they open up some.”

If the ACAC follows provincial rules they can allow vaccinated fans, or those with negative tests.

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at danrode@shaw.ca

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