BASKETBALL: Surrey Holy Cross guard to follow in footsteps of Steve Nash

FLEETWOOD — After a tough third-place finish at last year’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 year’s provincial championships, is excited to attend the same university as two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash.

“I’ve always kind of looked up to him as a player. Knowing I’m ending up where he did is kind of cool,” she said.

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The six-foot tall guard had five official visits to NCAA universities planned during August, but didn’t attend the last three after visiting the Santa Clara campus.

“The people were amazing. The coaches, the teammates,” said Vander Helm.

This will be the Grade 12 student’s third season playing in the senior girls’ division. Steve Beauchamp, her coach, is looking to her to be a leader on the court.

“Last year … I had more phone calls from U.S. schools interested in those players and especially interested in Nicole,” Beauchamp said. “I’ve never had this many phone calls before about a player.”

The Crusaders coach admitted that Vander Helm has a lot less to worry about this year with her future already decided.

“It’s a huge lift off Nicole’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,” he said.

Beauchamp said the player is not afraid to ask for help, whether it’s from him, former women’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 didn’t make it, they told her it was because her shooting wasn’t strong enough.

“For the next six months (she was) in the gym with me, in the gym on her own … and it’s all about shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting,” the coach said. “She uses it as motivation to say, ‘What do I need to do? Because I want to make that team.’”

kyle.benning@gmail.com

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