By Martin Cleary
If you ever wanted to challenge the Renon sisters of Ottawa to a game of 3×3 basketball, beware. There’s a lot of talent in that three-guard unit.
Alana and Ava have a combined four years of intercollegiate experience respectively with the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees and the McGill University Martlets. The youngest sister, Katrina, is entering Grade 12 at the Louis-Riel Academy and is coming off a dream summer of basketball.
At 16, Katrina has spent the past decade dribbling, shooting, scoring and stealing basketballs in her obsession with hoops. She can thank Alana and Ava for that guidance.
“They really enjoyed it and made new friends. When I was at their practices, I joined in sometimes and liked it,” said Katrina, who started playing at age seven with the Nepean Blue Devils before advancing to the Ottawa Shooting Stars and now the Louis-Riel Academy of the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association.
After 10 years of learning various aspects of the game, Renon recently become a Canadian champion, while representing her first Ontario team.
Renon averaged more than 10 points a game and posted noticeable numbers for rebounds, steals and assists as Ontario won the Canadian girls’ U17 basketball championship in Sherbrooke. Ontario handily won its round-robin pool at 4-0 before defeating Saskatchewan 91-25 in the quarterfinals, Alberta 92-41 in the semifinals and British Columbia 84-74 in the championship game.
“It was amazing,” Renon said about Ontario’s run of seven straight wins at the national tournament. “It felt so good. We were all so happy.”
After six days of tryouts over three weekends in Ottawa, Toronto and Hamilton, Renon was named to a provincial women’s team. More than 40 players attended the tryout sessions. She was one of the final 12 picked, along with fellow local player Jessica Wangolo.
“Originally, when I tried out for the Ontario team, I tried out for the U18 team. I made the U18 team, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to be an alternate. I wasn’t sure if I’d get any playing time. I decided to go down and play with the U17 team,” Renon explained.
“The tryouts were stressful. Everyone was there from Ontario. But it was good and I met a lot of new people from different teams. It was really nice (to make the team). I was really proud to wear the Team Ontario jersey.”
If Renon decided to stay with the U18 team, she would be playing with Ontario this week at the Canada Summer Games in the Niagara Region. But by joining the U17 squad, she wore the Team Ontario uniform at last week’s Canadian girls’ U17 championship in Sherbrooke.
That decision allowed her to have a four-week break before returning to the Louis-Riel Academy in September for the 2022-23 Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association season. The academy is part of École secondaire publique Louis-Riel in Ottawa’s east-end.
“I really think I did well (at nationals),” she added. “I started super strong, mellowed and my defence improved throughout the week.
“When we played the weak teams, we’d practise our plays and try new things. It was OK to make mistakes. Against B.C., we knew what to do and how to work together.”
In Ontario’s opening game against Manitoba, a 106-45 win, Renon hit all three of her three-point shots en route to a 19-point effort in only 15 minutes of floor time. She also recorded three steals.
Renon followed that with an even better showing during Ontario’s 90-24 victory over Newfoundland and Labrador. In 25 minutes, she scored 17 points and registered seven rebounds, seven steals and three assists.
She averaged more than seven points a game the rest of the way as she continued to help Ontario at both ends of the court.
When Renon was named to the Ontario U17 team in June, the girls couldn’t practice until just before nationals. All the players had to complete their seasons with their different AAU teams.
Renon was a member of the Become One team, which is based in Fort Erie, ON. Become One played ranking tournaments in Kentucky and Ohio before having its main tournament in Florida, where the team finished third in its pool.
The Become One experience allowed Renon to improve her game, make mistakes and learn from them, and gain confidence as the coaches had “a lot of faith in us.”
“We were really new and had never played together,” Renon said about Ontario’s early days of preparing for the national U17 championship.
“But most of the individuals played for OSBA (Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association) teams and I knew they would be at a high calibre. I didn’t know how we’d work as a team. I had a feeling we wouldn’t get to the final, but we’d be one of the tough teams.”
At six feet, three inches tall, Renon can be effective under the basket, but she prefers to think of herself as a guard.
“My height (is my advantage),” she said. “If I’m a guard, it’s a big help. If I play the post, I use my speed. I’m agile at 6-3 and versatile.”
When she returns to the Louis-Riel Academy for her final, two-semester academic year, she’ll focus on her course load – physics, chemistry, biology, two mathematics subjects, French and basketball. She’s strong academically, having graduated Grade 11 with a 3.9 out of 4.0 grade-point average.
Renon also will be spending time determining where she will study in 2023-24. Her athletic and academic performances have attracted attention from local and NCAA universities.
“Both of my sisters went there (Louis-Riel Academy),” Renon continued. “I had a good feeling about it. The coach (André Desjardins) stresses development. He makes us think (on the court). He tries to make us coach ourselves and let us figure it out.”
Renon enjoys the academy program as it allows players from all grades to come together to develop their games at the next level and become friends.
“I enjoy playing with people with the same (basketball) mentality and a win-all-the-time attitude,” she said.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 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 High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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