Heidi Smith has shown she’s a talented basketball player during the last three seasons, but this year is the most important of her high school career.
Although she has impressed at the past three provincial high school basketball championships and earned a bronze medal with Manitoba at the Canada Summer Games in August, this season is her last chance to impress university coaches enough to earn a scholarship for next season.
The 17-year-old from Virden wants to play at the university level and has had a few discussions with coaches, but she’s not sure where she wants to go yet or what she wants to study. Her area of study will greatly impact her decision.
"For sure, I’d like to go to university," Smith said at Brandon University’s inaugural New Year’s Basketball Classic, in which her Virden Golden Bears are participating. "I’m still looking, but I don’t know what I’m doing yet. … I personally would like to get away from home, but (Brandon University) is still an option."
Smith, a 5-foot-7 point guard, has found a lot of success on the hardwood. Last season she helped the Golden Bears place third at the provincial AAA varsity girls’ championship and was named a tournament all-star. She was also named to the provincial all-star team at the AAA/AAAA junior varsity provincials in 2012 and at the rural JV provincial tournament in 2011.
Last summer she made Manitoba’s team that placed third at the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que., and although Smith didn’t get a lot of playing time at the tournament, she believes the experience she gained was invaluable.
"It was amazing," she said. "It was so much fun travelling with those girls and playing with them and getting to know them …
"We practised a lot, which in itself made everybody improve a lot more than actual playing because we didn’t play a lot as a team anyways. The practising was the key for us."
Smith has now turned her focus to the Golden Bears as they look to tune up their game in the New Year’s Classic and compete for a provincial title in the spring.
This weekend is also a good chance for BU Bobcats women’s basketball coach Novell Thomas to get a good look at Smith, as well as some other high school players in the province.
"It’s a great opportunity," said Thomas, who is scouting a couple players from Thompson’s R.D. Parker Trojans as well as Smith and Neelin Spartans standout Paige Thomson. "I haven’t seen Virden play this year. I’ll see them play in our tournament for the first time."
It may be a bit of a change going from an elite provincial team to the high school squad, but Smith doesn’t view it as being all that different. The majority of the Golden Bear players have been together for at least four years and they all know their responsibilities on the court.
Although Smith would love to cap her high school basketball career with a provincial title, she knows it will take a lot of hard work and the road won’t be easy. That is why she’s more focused on how well her team plays for the rest of the year.
"I like winning," she said. "(We need to) just keep playing like we can; play good. If we play good and lose, I’m happy still."