As students return home from colleges and universities for the holidays, Mount Baker alumni gathered at the school gym to put on a one-day camp for the senior girls basketball team on Monday.
Sisters Chelsea and Katie Nutini, along with Paige McGowan, got together with the high school team coaches—coincidentally their dads, Al Nutini and Joe McGowan—to put the girls through their paces and give them a taste of what it looks like to play college-level basketball.
The Nutini sisters are currently playing together at St. Mary’s University College in Calgary, while McGowan formerly played for North Idaho College and Eastern Washington University.
McGowan handled a morning session focused mostly on leadership and the importance of teamwork and communication, while the Nutini sisters took the lead on running drills in the afternoon.
The day concluded with an alumni game in the evening.
McGowan summed up the morning as time set towards team building in the school library before getting down to business on the court in the afternoon.
“I think the foundation of success comes from a team that understands each other and shares values and has established an understanding of one another, especially in times of conflict—if something comes up with a player or obstacle to overcome as a team—if you have some values guiding your choices and guiding how the players will behave, it keeps everyone unified through that process,” McGowan said.
“Today they did a lot of great work around things that will guide the way that they play.”
Workouts, drills and an emphasis on individual skills was the priority in the afternoon as the team headed into the gym.
The Nutini sisters participated in an open practice and helped the girls work on pure shooting and playing tough defence.
“I think we’re just trying to really improve their skills and make them confident in playing,” said Katie.
“Getting around screens and how to play tough-on-ball defence and just show their passion for the game through their defence, which should bring energy to their offence.”
Chelsea took the lead on teaching shooting skills.
“We’re really going to dissect their form and their release time and their confidence as a shooter,” she said. “We’re going to work on what being a shooting guard is, getting in the proper mindset to be successful.”
Chelsea has made stops at Langara College in Vancouver and SAIT in Calgary before joining up with her sister and the St. Mary’s basketball squad this year.
St. Mary’s is having a tough go in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) with a winless record in 11 games, but the two sisters are enjoying the fact that they get to play together.
Chelsea describes her sister as being a gritty player who relishes in playing a tough defensive game.
“That’s where Katie plays her best games, when she’s getting the rebounds, when she’s doing little things like that,” she said. “She’s also a phenomenal shooter, got a quick release.”
Katie added that having a sibling connection on the court can mean plays develop without even talking to each other.
“Her court vision, she see’s the court very well and she knows where to be always, which is really nice to play with and she knows the right decisions to make,” said Katie. “Not only that, but she’s a great shooter.”
When it comes to getting noticed by post-secondary institutions to join athletic programs, McGowan said exposure of any sort is key.
While attending a camp in the States with the MBSS high school team, McGowan was noticed by a coach at North Idaho, who brought her into the program.
However, if high school students have that passionate drive to play college or university-level basketball, it doesn’t hurt to contact the school—or even head coach—directly.
“Just because some people are recruited doesn’t mean players can’t send tapes or contact coaches themselves, or go to colleges and be a walk-on,” said McGowan.”Because at NIC and Eastern, we had players on our team who showed up to practice and said, ‘I want to try out.’
“And they ended up being on the team, because they were awesome basketball players and the coaches wouldn’t have found them or met them otherwise, and sometimes those are the best players, because they seek out that opportunity more than a player that got invited for a full-ride.”