By Mike Lacey, Lacey Lowdown.
Cantabrian Sofia Kennedy is heading to North America on a basketball scholarship but unlike most she is not bound for America, instead choosing to attend the University of Windsor in Canada.
What makes Sofia’s situation doubly interesting is that being a dual international she also had the option of an athletics scholarship.
The Canterbury Wildcats and Middleton Grange alumna not only played for New Zealand at the 2018 FIBA U18 Asia Championship in Bangalore, India but also competed for her country at the Secondary Schools Cross Country World Championships in Paris in the same year.
“I was originally looking at getting both a basketball scholarship and a cross country scholarship, but it turned out that the seasons would have collided too much and managing two high level sports as well as my studies probably would've been a bit much,” said Sofia.
The 19 year-old Christchurch resident departs for Ontario at the end of August and although a scholarship in Canada is not a common route for young Kiwi basketballers it is nevertheless one that excites her.
“The things I'm most excited about are the opportunities to get better at basketball, study something I'm really interested in and experience life in a different country. My goal is to use my basketball to get a degree that I'm interested in and also to improve my game as much as I can,” said Kennedy.
Windsor University are coached by Chantal Vallée who has led the Lancers to five Canadian University National titles. Vallée was a keynote speaker at the BBNZ National Coaches Conference earlier this year where she impressed delegates when speaking on ‘Building a Culture of Inspiration and Excellence’.
“I am delighted to have met Sofia while on a trip to Christchurch. Her personality and determination immediately caught my attention. Meeting her family and her this past summer enabled me to meet a young woman who was passionate about getting better and extremely dedicated to hard work.
“I believe Sofia will improve quickly playing with us and will be able to provide good defence, court vision and leadership at our guard spot. “I am excited to welcome her to Canada and to continue to partner with clubs, coaches and players in New Zealand through the years,” Vallée added.
Kennedy, who is planning to study Environmental Science, is looking forward to her time at Windsor.
“I chose Windsor primarily because of the high level of education it offers, and I also think the Canadian culture is a good fit for me in terms of my interests and lifestyle. Playing for Coach Vallée will provide me with a great opportunity to improve my game,” said Sofia.
Reflecting on her basketball journey to date Sofia says she has many people and coaches to thank. “Firstly I would like to thank my parents for all the work they have put into my sporting career. They always helped me to keep going when managing school, sport and life was tough.
“I would also like to thank Lori McDaniel for the countless hours she has put into training over the last four years, I've learnt heaps from Lori. I want to thank Mark Dickel for the high level trainings he ran when he was here, they really pushed me to a whole new level. And Caleb Harrison also.
“And thanks to Helen Williamson for the hours she put into coaching my school team, I really admire how much time and effort she has put into the sport and in developing players,” added Sofia.
Over fifty Kiwi women are on basketball scholarships in the USA but it is believed only Maia Watling and Dionne Martin arebased in Canada. Watling is at Cape Breton University and Martin attends Algoma University.
Sofia is set to become the third and we wish her well.