Creighton’s Naomi Dickens made her mark on the hard court this year - and blazed a new trail for local basketball players in the process.
Dickens was one of a small group of Saskatchewan basketball players, all Grade 12s, to be named to the Basketball Saskatchewan Senior All Star Classic earlier this year.
While some basketball players from teams based in Flin Flon have made similar provincial all-star teams in the past, Dickens is the first Kodiaks player to make the cut.
“It’s like the best level of basketball I’ve ever witnessed - being a part of it anyway,” she said of the play with the team during games and training.
“I didn’t feel like I knew I was at that level until I got there.”
Dickens was part of a Kodiaks team that reached regionals back in March - as the 10th seed in the tournament, Creighton upset Regina Christian in the main tournament before losing out.
“Out of hundreds of athletes, she was one of 20 Grade 12 basketball players chosen to participate in the event,” said Connie Atkinson, Dickens’ coach with the Kodiaks this year. It was Atkinson who initially nominated her for the team - when the news came, both coach and player were overwhelmed.
“When she (Atkinson) told me, she was practically crying when she told me. It was a huge shock,” Dickens said.
“She and her mom drove to Moose Jaw and she practiced with the team - and then played in the showcase game,” Atkinson said.
Being from the north meant Dickens came into the event cold, having either never or very seldom played against any of her new teammates.
“When I got there, I didn't really know anybody and then all those other girls did know each other, because they've been playing on the USask teams together and all that. They knew the drills and whatnot, but I was still able to keep up with them, which was amazing to me,” she said.
“I know I'm like praised in Flin Flon for how I play basketball, but I didn't realize that I was at that level in like cities too. That was pretty amazing.”
Despite the new playing field and players, Dickens stuck with her new team and saw success.
“They definitely play a different game - like it's not what you see here, especially because these girls were handpicked from their teams. It's like the best of the best from their teams. That was insane,” she said.
“She is the first athlete from Creighton to ever be chosen for this event and the team she was playing with won by a fair margin,” said Atkinson.
The experience brought with it a chance to train and practice with top coaches and players - and a chance to bring some of that know-how back home to help out her coaches and Kodiaks teammates.
“I learned so much stuff from them too, and I got to bring home so many ideas and drills to my team and then to the Flin Flon club team that we have. That was amazing,” said Dickens.
Dickens will be heading to Winnipeg in the fall to study at the University of Manitoba and is already looking at basketball teams and leagues to play in when she heads south.
“I've been looking into rec teams within the University of Manitoba and outside the school, whatever is in Winnipeg, because I don't want to give up the sport. I just love it so much,” she said.