Chestermere graduate to play basketball for Mount Royal University
If Yasmene Saghir was going to get the chance to play university basketball, there was only one place she wanted to play.
The 17-year-old Chestermere High School graduate will suit up for the Mount Royal Cougars ladies basketball team for the 2013-2014 season.
By her account, Saghir’s introduction to basketball was somewhat of an accident.
“My sister dragged me to a clinic,” she said. “After that I started getting more into it with training and skills and I tried out for the school team in Grade 9. I like that it’s a game where you can develop your personal skills, but then work as a team.”
For the past two summers, Saghir has played with the provincial team, which gave her an intense two months of training and skill development. The team alternated between practicing in Calgary and Edmonton every week with two practices a day.
Saghir and Team Alberta competed at the National Championships in Fredricton, P.E.I. in 2011 and in Winnipeg, Man. in 2012.
“It was intense,” Saghir said of the national experience. “You get to see all of the players throughout Canada. They’re elite and you don’t quite understand it until you see it. It was crazy.
“It shows you how much you have to work and how hard the other players are working. Everyday that you don’t train, other players are and they’re passing you. It shows you that you have to work hard if you want to succeed.”
It was during her first year with the provincial team that Saghir began turning her attention to potentially playing at the post-secondary level and when she decided to pursue that goal, she set her sights on Mount Royal University.
It turns out that the school was just as interested in Saghir as she was in them. The team signed Saghir last year when she was only a junior, which is unusual for collegiate teams. Most players sign upon their high school graduation.
“It was my school of choice and they approached me,” Saghir said. “I had to take it. It made me want to work harder and prove my skills. I really appreciated it.”
For many, signing to play for a university team with one year of high school ball left may be an added weight on their shoulders, but for Saghir it was the opposite. She said that signing early allowed her to focus on her game in her last season with the Chestermere Lakers without having to impress other schools or teams.
Saghir, who will be studying in the university’s Arts program, credits her high school coach, Brian Utley, for helping her grow and improve her skills, but most importantly her mental strength, which she said is going to be a factor when she makes the transition to Mount Royal.
“He made basketball fun for us.” Saghir said of Utley. “Everything he involved with the program was memorable. He taught me not to put myself down when I make a mistake, but move on and prove I can do it better.