FLEETWOOD â€” After a tough third-place finish at last yearâ€™s provincial championships, Nicole Vander Helm is looking forward to basketball season.
The Holy Cross student has committed to attend and play for Santa Clara University next season, receiving a full-ride scholarship.
Vander Helm, who was named a first-team all star at last yearâ€™s provincial championships, is excited to attend the same university as two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash.
â€œIâ€™ve always kind of looked up to him as a player. Knowing Iâ€™m ending up where he did is kind of cool,â€ she said.
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The six-foot tall guard had five official visits to NCAA universities planned during August, but didnâ€™t attend the last three after visiting the Santa Clara campus.
â€œThe people were amazing. The coaches, the teammates,â€ said Vander Helm.
This will be the Grade 12 studentâ€™s third season playing in the senior girlsâ€™ division. Steve Beauchamp, her coach, is looking to her to be a leader on the court.
â€œLast year â€¦ I had more phone calls from U.S. schools interested in those players and especially interested in Nicole,â€ Beauchamp said. â€œIâ€™ve never had this many phone calls before about a player.â€
The Crusaders coach admitted that Vander Helm has a lot less to worry about this year with her future already decided.
â€œItâ€™s a huge lift off Nicoleâ€™s shoulders. This whole decision of what to do, where to play, what to do next year has been weighing on her since the end of the season last year,â€ he said.
Beauchamp said the player is not afraid to ask for help, whether itâ€™s from him, former womenâ€™s national team coach Allison McNeill or her neighbour Mario Luongo.
He recalls a time when Vander Helm had to miss a team trip to Hawaii so she could try out for the cadet national team. She was one of the final cuts and when she asked why she didnâ€™t make it, they told her it was because her shooting wasnâ€™t strong enough.
â€œFor the next six months (she was) in the gym with me, in the gym on her own â€¦ and itâ€™s all about shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting,â€ the coach said. â€œShe uses it as motivation to say, â€˜What do I need to do? Because I want to make that team.â€™â€