By Martin Cleary
It took eight years, but University of Ottawa women’s basketball head coach Rose-Anne Joly has kept her promise.
“I volunteered at the FIBA Americas women’s championship back in 2015 in Edmonton. I was team liaison (for) Team Argentina and I was paired with another volunteer from Japan,” Joly wrote in an email interview.
“I had told him one day I would bring a team (to) Japan and we finally made it happen. My friend works for a basketball company in Japan and was able to organize four games for us against very good competition.”
The 2023-24 OUA women’s basketball season doesn’t start for the Gee-Gees until Nov. 3 with a road game at the University of Guelph, but now is the time for team building on and off the court.
Earlier this week, the Gee-Gees started their 11-day, four-game pre-season with a trip to Japan. It’s a combination of playing international basketball games and experiencing the culture of one of the most densely populated island countries in the world.
The capital Tokyo is the focus for the first six days, including the first three games. The opening two games were played Monday against Waseda University and Wednesday against Tokyo Healthcare University. The Gee-Gees will again face Waseda on Thursday.
Later this week, the Gee-Gees will fly to Okinawa for four days and are scheduled to play Nishihara High School on Sunday. During their time in Okinawa, the Gee-Gees hope to experience the FIBA World Cup men’s basketball championship, either by watching a practice or a game.
They won’t get to see Canada on court as the national team is playing its preliminary games in Jakarta, Indonesia. The 32-country World Cup also has games in Manila, Philippines.
Besides bringing the Gee-Gees to Japan to fulfill a long-time commitment, Joly also had point-guard Natsuki Szczokin in mind, when she organized the trip. Szczokin, who was born in Japan, was a third-team OUA all-star in the 2022-23 season and ranked No. 2 in assists at 4.0 a game.
“I try to organize pre-season trips around Canada for our student-athletes that are from different areas,” Joly added. “They get to play in front of their family members and friends. This year, Natsuki (will be) able to play in front of her family members.”
When the Gee-Gees aren’t on the basketball court, they are using public transport to visit various temples and popular tourist attractions, including Shibuya Scramble Crossing, which is the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing and is similar to New York City’s Times Square.
Whether it’s games or touring, the trip is all about team bonding.
“We have a big roster yet again this coming season,” Joly wrote. “To be able to create those connections off the court even before the start of school is extraordinary.
“We are also playing against great competition here and it will set some goals for us until the end of the season. Above all that, it’s a life-time experience for our student-athletes, myself and my assistant coach (Sarah Besselink). Japan is a beautiful country and it’s a privilege to be able to travel there as a team.”
The cost of the trip is shared one-third each by the student-athletes, the women’s basketball program budget and through fundraising.
STRONG SECOND HALF LIFTS GEE-GEES PAST HARVARD IN MEN’S BASKETBALL
The Gee-Gees men’s basketball team opened their 2023-24 season on Tuesday, playing a notable NCAA Division 1 university and scoring a win.
Trailing 38-33 at halftime, the Gee-Gees almost matched their offensive output in the second half and allowed only 14 points on defence to turn back Harvard University Crimson 65-52 at Montpetit Hall.
The Gee-Gees were sparked by guards Cole Newton and Kevin Otoo. Newton connected on four of his seven three-point field-goal attempts and finished with 14 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals. Otoo scored 12 points and added seven rebounds and three assists.
Ottawa will head West for the University of British Columbia Okanagan Fall Classic, beginning on Oct. 14.
Harvard was slated to play the U Sports national champion Carleton University Ravens on Wednesday night.
The Ravens will stage their annual House-Laughton tournament Oct. 13-15 with games against Guelph, Saskatchewan and UQAM Citadins.
The men’s OUA season opens in Guelph for the Gee-Gees on Nov. 3 and the Ravens on Nov. 4.
UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA MEN’S BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME IN THE MAKING
The University of Ottawa is in the process of selecting the inaugural members of its men’s basketball hall of fame.
The public is invited to nominate candidates by completing a form.
The deadline for submitting names for consideration to the University of Ottawa Men’s Basketball Hall of Fame is Sept. 6.
The first group of inductees will be announced during the fall exhibition schedule and a celebration will be staged in the winter portion of the 2023-24 season.
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 email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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