Another O'Gorman Knights product has been recruited for post-secondary basketball, as Abby Couture has signed with Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie.
“I'm beyond excited. It's going to be a great experience,” she told The Daily Press.
The offer from Algoma U caught Couture off guard. She was surprised when Algoma Thunderbirds head coach Ryan Vetrie texted her to to welcome her to the team.
Couture said she is planning on studying in the four-year Law and Justice program.
All amateur athletic competitions have been shut down for at least the calendar year, which has posed a challenge for players like Couture, who are in their senior year of high school. However, her creativity and determination have kept her as sharp as possible.
“With everything being closed during the first wave, I kind of made my own home workouts. I downloaded this app where you just mimic the screen, and you try to get as many points as you can while you're dribbling.
“So I did that a lot, and I was doing home workouts. As soon as the gyms opened up, I've been there working on my fitness, and trying to get ahead of everything,” said Couture.
Unfortunately her final season with the Knights has been cancelled, but her three completed seasons have been very fruitful.
Couture owns three OFSAA 'A' medals: Two gold and one bronze.
She particularly enjoyed the games against bigger, and highly talented teams.
“It helped me push myself. Because there's always going to be better players than you, and you always just try to outwork them. It pushed me to do better.”
Knights head coach Marcy McCarty was thrilled to hear Couture will be continuing her basketball career.
“It's been something she has really wanted, so to see that come true, especially this year, it's great for her.”
McCarty believes Algoma is a great fit for Couture.
“I would imagine she's going to be getting lots of playing time.”
Couture is also a product of the Timmins Selects youth basketball program, which she has been involved with since she was in Grade 7. McCarty saw major talent in her very early on.
“First time I met her was in the Selects system, and saw her come up through Grade 8, and develop as a big player in that system, and with me. We pulled her up as an underage to come with us to OFSAA when she wasn't necessarily on the senior team, to get that experience.”
Couture had nothing but great things to say about her time with the Selects.
“The whole basketball family in Timmins is full of wonderful people. You get to meet a lot of people. The coaches are great, they always push you to reach your full potential.”
She took a shine to basketball earlier than many of her peers.
“I was always a taller kid, so dance didn't really work out,” said Couture, who was encouraged by one of driving forces behind the Timmins Selects program.
“Coach Jamie Lamothe, I saw him at school one day, and he handed me a paper to play in the Steve Nash training league. That's when I started, and at my first practice, I instantly fell in love with the game.
“I felt like I belonged. My height wasn't being mocked, or I wasn't being picked on. I just belonged.”
Couture will become the seventh player from the McCarty-led Knights in just the last four years to be recruited for post-secondary basketball.
Emma Weltz (Queen's University), Arianna Gagnon (Algonquin College), Gabby Schaffner (Laurentian University), Brianna Dodd (Nipissing University), Ally Burke (Lakehead University), and most recently, Jadyn Weltz (Binghamton University, NCAA) have all taken the success they had in Timmins to the next level.
Couture said McCarty and Cathy Beard have been instrumental in her development as a player.
“They are incredible coaches. Every time I stepped on the court, they pushed me to do my best. Even off-court, they're always telling me what I can improve on, and how to improve.”
They have also worked very hard to promote and showcase local players to the rest of the province and beyond.
“They are getting noticed way before their senior year. They are on the radar. They are talking to coaches. Coaches are coming up to us wherever we go. I put miles and miles on that bus to get them in that situation. To get them recognized, to get them noticed, and to give them that experience,” said McCarty, who has four OFSAA medals to her name as a coach, including two golds.
Their annual success at the provincials hasn't gone unnoticed by the basketball community, and any negative preconceived notions about players from the North have continuously been shaken.
“They know who we are. We've put our name on the map. But I'd say five years ago, when we started travelling with these girls, we'd walk into the gym, and they'd be like 'we've got this' and surprise, you don't. I think that really started to turn the tables,” said McCarty.
“I've met a lot of wonderful people, and I have a lot of mentors now in the basketball world that have really helped us in that regard, and have invited us to tournaments, and made sure that we had those connections, and said, 'Hey these girls can play.' Just because they're from Northern Ontario, doesn't mean they don't know how to play ball. I think that has really changed a lot.”
For Couture, it will be the culmination of a goal she has had for a long time to be university student athlete.
With the 2020-2021 U-Sports seasons cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the upcoming season is still under a cloud of uncertainty. Couture isn't exactly sure when she'll be joining her Thunderbirds teammates, but it will likely be sometime during mid-summer.
However, she knows exactly what she'll be working on over the next few months.
“A lot of foot work, and a lot of speed work for sure. Improve my cardio. Improve my strength, and my ball-handling skills.”
Andrew Autio is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for The Daily Press. LJI is a federally funded program.
Andrew Autio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily Press