By Dan Plouffe, published Jan. 26 in Ottawa East/West EMC
For Bess Lennox, going back to school at the University of Ottawa was all about furthering her studies in a Master’s program that matches her interests in public policy and international affairs, while hopefully improving her French along the way.
But it’s turned into a superb athletic adventure as well, and the Ashbury College grad is now thrilled that she seized opportunity to reignite a relationship with her old high school and club basketball coach and join his Gee-Gees women’s basketball team.
“When Mr. Sparks asked – well, I wouldn’t have played anywhere else, but I couldn’t say no to the opportunity to play for him again,” recounts Lennox, who laughs when it’s pointed out that she’s probably now the only one who doesn’t call her former teacher Coach Sparks or Andy. “I know – it’s a habit I can’t break.”
Lennox and Sparks go back a long way, of course, since her Grade 7 year at Ashbury. The latest chapter comes after Lennox’s four-year career with the University of Western Ontario Mustangs and a two-year stint playing overseas in an Australian women’s league.
The 6’ 1” centre is now a key piece to a Gee-Gees team that solidified its status as a national championship contender by fighting off the second-place Carleton Ravens to record a 59-55 victory at last week’s Capital Hoops Classic at Scotiabank Place.
“I kind of said yes just to have the opportunity to play under Mr. Sparks and to play basketball again – sometimes I just can’t imagine what I’d do without it – but the team is awesome,” explains Lennox, noting the group that features just one starter with over a year tenure on the Gee-Gees is starting to build some chemistry.
“Everyone works very hard, and we’ll see come the end of the season, but I think we have the chance to be very good.”
Sparks couldn’t be more pleased to welcome Lennox’s consistent veteran presence to his lineup. With an average of eight point per game, scoring isn’t the main focus for Lennox, but she’s fitting into an important role for the Gee-Gees, highlights the fourth-year university coach.
“She does a great job defensively, she rebounds the heck out of the ball, and those are the things that coaches love,” says Sparks, who’s found that Lennox really hasn’t changed much from high school until now. “Bess has always been the same. Her work ethic is second to no one. She’s always rebounding, and she’s always been a coach’s dream.”
The current Canadian Interuniversity Sport leader with 160 rebounds through 15 games, Lennox is only 19 boards away from breaking the all-time Ontario University Athletics rebounding mark of 986 owned by Kanata native Cassandra Carpenter, a former Laurentian Voyageur.
That’s one part of the chance Lennox has to finish her university career on a high. It’s also likely the final season of her playing career overall, she acknowledges, with plans to move into the working world once the second year of her Master’s is complete.
Lennox has always had her eye on a career with the United Nations since she was a star athlete in many sports at Elmdale Public School, although she’s become especially intrigued in recent years by the growing effort behind “sport for development” movements, not only internationally but in Canada as well.
“Sport can be a great vehicle to overcome some tough circumstances,” notes Lennox, an honour role student all four years she studied history at Western. “Sport has given me so much and so many opportunities. It’s difficult to see that some people can’t afford it and don’t have access to these opportunities.”
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