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By Mark Colley
When Capital Courts Academy head coach Fabienne Blizzard first saw Achol Akot play basketball in elementary school at Dr. F.J. MacDonald, she immediately noticed her potential.
“She surprised me with what she was able to see and do on the floor at that age,” Blizzard recalled. “To be that young and to make certain reads and to feel the game the way she does is rare.”
It would still be years until Akot, now 18 years old and competing with Team Ontario at the Canada Summer Games next week, would wind up playing under Blizzard with the Capital Courts Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association program. When she did two years ago, the work to fulfill Akot’s potential began.
Akot worked on her strength and footwork, understanding her body and role on the court.
“Before Capital Courts, my confidence wasn’t really there,” Akot said, explaining that she wouldn’t want the basketball in her hands. “I would just like to be a supportive character, somebody who just passes the ball and doesn’t have an impact on the game.”
But Blizzard taught her the influence she could have, and it came in a lightbulb moment during playoffs for this year’s OSBA championship, which Capital Courts won.
Blizzard recounted how Akot recognized what she was capable of doing on the court and started trusting herself as a player. She also filled in wherever she was needed — when other players were unavailable, she assessed what the team lacked and made adjustments without being asked.
“She gave herself permission to be like, ‘Oh, I can shoot the ball. Oh, I can get to the rim. I don’t have to just rebound or just play defence. I’m able to contribute in a different way,’” Blizzard explained.
That echoes what Akot says she wants to be as a basketball player and person, supporting her teammates both on the court and off.
Blizzard said Akot is “hilarious” at practice and hopes she doesn’t trash talk at the Canada Games.
“I have a lot of energy. [I’m] not really that shy,” Akot smiled. “On the court, same thing. Energy, not really shy. Very direct. I don’t really shy away from things.”
Akot began playing basketball in Grade 7, inspired by her older brother Lual. Lual played basketball at Canada Topflight Academy and convinced Achol to play basketball when he needed a girl for a basketball tournament.
Achol said Lual is her role model.
“Watching him play inspired me a lot,” Akot underlined. “I would go to watch his games every Saturday and I loved the way he played. I adapted his game into mine.”
Akot, who is entering Grade 12 at Cairine Wilson Secondary School, hopes to play D1 in the NCAA and has narrowed down the recruiting process to four schools, where she’d like to study psychology.
Akot said that playing in the Canada Summer Games, with a chance to win a national title title after winning a provincial crown with Capital Courts, is “kind of overwhelming,” but she also expects it will be a “great experience.” She will compete on Team Ontario alongside fellow Capital Courts product Catrina Garvey, a 17-year-old guard who’s been with CCA since Grade 6.
Blizzard said Garvey works so hard, the coaching staff has to tell her not to practice.
“She doesn’t want to miss practice and she doesn’t want to make excuses,” Blizzard said.
Capital Courts point guard Jessica Wangolo is also on Team Ontario but may not compete in the Games because she is currently at U17 women’s basketball nationals.
Akot’s goal for the Games is to help her teammates and give Team Ontario the best shot of winning.
“It’s such a great experience,” Akot said. “I get to play with people that I usually play against. I get to play against players not only in Ontario but all around Canada.”
The Canada Games basketball competition runs from Aug. 8-13. Consult the full schedule here.
In the two weeks leading up to the start of the Canada Summer Games, OttawaSportsPages.ca will be profiling participating local athletes. During the Aug. 6-21 Games, we’ll bring you daily reporting live from Niagara Region. Sign up to receive our free Ottawa at the Canada Summer Games Daily Newsletter to follow along!
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