“I’m just so proud of them and it gives me chills just to talk about Canada going to the Olympics. To be able to reach your goals, to follow your dreams, to be able to say that you’re an Olympian—that’s an amazing thing to do.”
After quarterbacking the Gee-Gees women’s basketball team to their first-ever medal at the CIS championships in the 2011–12 season, no one could have blamed second-year point guard Kellie Ring (Ottawa, Ont.) if she wanted to relax in the offseason. But when she received an invitation to try out for the Canadian Senior Women’s ‘B’ Team, Ring knew exactly what she wanted to do.
“I got an email inviting me to the camp, and it was super exciting. Right away, I cancelled everything that I had planned and said to myself that I was going to go do this,” said Ring. “It was a great experience, to be able to play with the best girls in the country—a lot of them were CIS players that I played against last season.”
Canada Basketball invited 14 of the most promising young women’s basketball players to the ‘B’ team trials, including seven CIS players. The ‘B’ team acts as a feeder system to the Canadian Senior Women’s National Team which competes at Olympic and World Championships, and the qualifying tournaments for those events. While the ‘B’ team camp, held in Toronto in May, was initially supposed to be a try-out of sorts, it was eventually decided that all 14 players would take part in a European exhibition trip which saw the team travel to Belgium and Montenegro, May 17–27.
“I just went to the camp with an open mind and I was feeling pretty confident because I’d been working hard, before the camp. The training camp was a good experience and playing overseas in Europe was great too, the five exhibition games that we played,” explained Ring.
The Canadian ‘B’ team went 1-3-1 in the exhibition games, against senior national teams composed of women who were much older and more experienced than the university athletes in the red-and-white. The highlight of the European trip came on May 27, when the Canadians, coached by Cape Breton University’s Fabien McKenzie, beat the Belgian national team 58-55.
“We were playing against mostly older women. It’s better to play against those older women, because that’s who we’re aspiring to be one day,” said Ring.
While Ring and the other ‘B’ team players are looking forward to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the current Senior Women’s National Team just recently qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. At the 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament, held from June 25 to July 1 in Ankara, Turkey, Team Canada finished in fifth place in a competition where the top five teams automatically qualify for the Olympics. The Canadian women’s basketball team is returning to the Olympics for the first time since 2000, when Ring was only seven years old.
“I’m just so proud of them and it gives me chills just to talk about Canada going to the Olympics. To be able to reach your goals, to follow your dreams, to be able to say that you’re an Olympian—that’s an amazing thing to do,” said Ring.
One of key members of the 2012 Canadian women’s basketball team is Courtnay Pilypaitis, an Ottawa native, and a long-time friend of Ring. Pilypaitis was the third highest scorer at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament with 63 points scored in five games.
“I’ve known her for a long time, and I even went down for a visit when she was playing for the University of Vermont. It’s good to have someone come out of Ottawa that has made such a huge impact with our national team program. She’s a great inspiration and I definitely look up to her. She’s doing exactly what I want to be doing in four years,” said Ring of her friend and role model. “She takes her chances, she’s a confident player, she’s smooth with the ball and that’s exactly the type of player I’m trying to be.”
Ring is already a veteran of the national team program in her own right. She has represented Canada in six international tournaments, including the 2011 FIBA U-19 World Championship, held in Chile, when Team Canada went 8-1 and finished in fifth place. Canada had never won eight games at the world junior tournament before. She was also a member of the first-ever Canadian Cadette national team in 2009.
“Every single one of my national team experiences, I just felt lucky to be a part of it, to put on the jersey with Canada written on it. At that moment, you just feel so proud and so passionate about what you’re doing because you’re representing your country,” said Ring.
As long as she continues to progress as a basketball player, Ring should have the chance to help Canada qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The only time Canada qualified for two straight Olympic Games in women’s basketball was back in the 1996 and 2000 Games.
“It’s going to be a tough road to the Olympics in 2016, but at the end of the day we’re going to do whatever it takes and I really truly believe that we will qualify.”