Basketball High Schools

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Glebe’s Emily Rheault, Cairine Wilson’s Nadia Ismaila joining their sisters for university basketball

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Glebe Gryphons basketball player Emily Rheault will join older sister Grace at St. Francis Xavier University. Photo provided

By Martin Cleary

Emily Rheault of Glebe Collegiate Institute and Nadia Ismaila of Cairine Wilson Secondary School have never officially met, but they have plenty in common.

Not only are they passionate about basketball and have experienced high school touch football, but also they’re about to join their sisters to play varsity women’s university basketball in 2021-22.

For the first time in two years, Emily and Grace Rheault will be reunited on the basketball court, when they will attend St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S. Grace, headed into her third year of studies this fall, is a team captain.

Emily spent her first three years at Glebe playing on the Gryphons girls’ senior team, but the 2020 season was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. She played with Grace during her Grade 9 and 10 seasons.

Meanwhile, Nadia is heading to Ontario Tech University in Oshawa, where she’ll be on the Ridgebacks’ roster along with her sister Hadiza, who will be a senior in 2021-22, after the pandemic cancelled her OUA junior season.

This will be a new experience for the Ismaila sisters as Nadia and Hadiza have never previously played together on the same team. Originally, Nadia laughed at that happening at Ontario Tech.

“At first, it was always a funny little joke about me going to Ontario Tech to have both Ismaila sisters on one team,” Nadia wrote in an email interview. “When it was brought up, my sister and I would just laugh.”

Nadia had her reasons. University coaches didn’t scout players as the Ontario high school season was cancelled and there were fewer team openings as seniors could return for another year because of the lost year.

Gloucester Wolverines product Nadia Ismaila will join older sister Hadiza at Ontario Tech University. Photo provided

“I was very scared I would not have a chance to play anywhere because not many coaches would have seen me play,” Nadia added. “However, (Ridgebacks) coach Christa (Eniojukan) had seen me play before and was always super welcoming, kind and reassuring, and with that I was offered a spot on the team.”

Attending St. Francis Xavier seemed like a no-brainer for Emily as it’s becoming a family tradition. Emily’s grandfather Marvin Rheault, mother Jennifer McKay, and father Kevin Rheault attended St. FX. And now Emily’s moving to the Maritimes to join Grace.

“The university has an extremely strong sense of community and as the daughter and granddaughter of alumni, I grew up hearing hundreds of stories from them and their fellow X-graduate friends,” Emily wrote.

Emily, who has had a significant community club basketball experience, reached out to Xavier women’s head coach Lee-Anna Osei through emails and phone calls before she committed to becoming an X-Woman.

“I am not someone who worries about the future, and when it came time to apply, StFX felt right,” she added. “StFX is far from home (but) I have family out East and all the connections to X make it feel like home.”

In both cases, Nadia and Emily are looking forward to giving their sisters a new title: teammate.

“Hadiza and I, like many siblings, are super competitive,” Nadia continued. “I think that playing on the same team will cause us to push each other and grow together. We have a great relationship and connection.

“She did not necessarily convince me to go there, but she did help me make conscious decisions as I was contemplating this next chapter of my life. She was very helpful in sharing her own experiences.”

Emily played the 2017 and 2018 National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association seasons with her older Glebe teammates, including Grace, who won Xavier’s 2021 X Iron Award for her weight-room training.

“My sister and I are very connected, which stays true on the court,” Emily added. “I think that in team sports it is crucial to have a good relationship with your teammates and my sister and I are not at all lacking in that department. Grace has loved her time at X so far, which made it hard for her not to twist my arm when the time came. But she tried very hard not to influence me too much.”

Nadia, who will study business marketing at Ontario Tech, played club basketball for the Gloucester Wolverines bantams, and Wolverines Elite U19 team. She won three Coaches’ Awards for basketball at Cairine Wilson.

A future climate/environment student, Emily played for the Ottawa Nationals/Ottawa Elite JUEL team. At Glebe, she won two of three NCSSAA finals and played in two OFSAA provincial high school championships.

If Nadia and Emily were to talk some day, they certainly would bond over basketball.

“I love the game of basketball because of the connections you build with your teammates and coaches,” Nadia wrote. Emily would agree.

Read More in this series on Ottawa’s HIGH SCHOOL BEST here.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at

Martin can be reached by e-mail at and on Twitter @martincleary.

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