By Emma Zhao
Three sisters. Three basketball players. Three Louis-Riel high school grads. Three exceptional students. And three different universities.
Alana, Ava and Katrina Renon are super similar siblings, but their choice of destination as varsity student-athletes is one thing they don’t share in common.
The Renon parents won’t get the dream opportunity to see their daughters line up in the same backcourt this fall, though they’ll be glad to never have to travel more than two hours to watch a home game.
Katrina Renon has chosen to play for the Queen’s Gaels, joining oldest sister Alana (uOttawa Gee-Gees) and middle sister Ava (McGill Martlets) as U Sports basketball players.
“I’ve always told [my daughters] that I want them to be happy,” underlines mother Cindy Renon, who is naturally thrilled to see Katrina join the others in the university ranks after attending countless youth soccer and basketball practices over the years.
“What I’m looking forward to is watching her grow, not only at basketball but as a person,” indicates Cindy, who’s seen Katrina develop many strengths and skills through sport.
“I would describe her as a natural leader,” she adds. “She is the type of person that people want to be around, she’s very positive, she’s very compassionate, she’s very humble.”
With Alana working on a biochemistry masters and Ava studying civil engineering, Katrina has followed the family legacy as a strong student. Combined with her on-court talents, the 6′ 3″ forward had her choice between a pile of opportunities to play in the U.S. along with a boatload of offers from different universities across Canada.
She ultimately chose Queen’s so she could be relatively close to family.
“I wanted to be able to come home when I really needed to,” explains Katrina, who toured the Kingston campus a number of times, and closely watched the basketball team’s interactions.
“The way they acted with each other is like how I act with my teammates and friends,” she outlines. “I felt like this is where I belong because I can really be myself.”
Katrina loves working with kids and has aspirations to become a teacher. However, she chose to major in chemistry so that she is afforded more options in the future.
“I don’t want to go into teaching right away,” she notes. “If I don’t end up liking it, then I’m just stuck with that teaching degree.”
Family fiendish for sports
Growing up, Katrina recalls being constantly surrounded by sports. Even though she towers over the rest of her family members now, she always looked up to their athletic abilities as a kid.
Both her parents were talented athletes – her father Angelo as a soccer player and her mother Cindy in basketball. The children were immersed in multiple sports growing up, playing both a summer and a winter sport.
“It came time around Grade 7 or 8 where I had to make a decision between soccer or basketball,” Katrina recounts. “I decided to choose basketball … because I just fell in love with the sport.”
By then, her older sisters were students at Louis-Riel high school in its girls’ basketball academy. So she followed.
Katrina became a standout player in the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association, won a Canadian U17 championship with Team Ontario last summer, and played in the BioSteel All Canadian Basketball Games for the country’s top high school prospects in March.
Anne Gildenhyus coached Katrina with the Ottawa Shooting Stars club long before that, and remembers the determination and effort she put into practices already stood out back when she was a U11 player.
“She was pretty shy to start with and I’m not sure she was super happy to be there, but she warmed up really quickly,” reflects Gildenhyus. “She was not the big tall player she is now, she was maybe one of the smaller players. But she was super hard-working … she definitely took her basketball seriously.”
André Desjardins, Katrina’s coach at Louis-Riel, still pegs Katrina as “a bit of an introvert,” though she’s also become an excellent leader both through her on-court actions and in the team huddle.
“She’s always very encouraging of others, she’s quick to give high-fives,” he signals. “When we debrief after a game, she’s one of the first to speak and highlight someone who did very well.”
After cycling through Renon after Renon with his Rebelles in recent years, Desjardins will wake up to the reality that they’ve all graduated when his team’s new season begins in the fall.
“We’ll take a hit,” he says. “It’ll be strange next year for sure, and not only because I won’t have a Renon sister on the court, but I’ll also miss having the Renon family involved with the program itself. They’ve been such big supporters and have helped in the success of it too.
“Having that relationship with the family and the three sisters has definitely enriched my own life on a daily basis. Apart from the basketball, they’re just great human beings.”
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