ERIC J. WELSH/ THE PROGRESS High school foes of the Sardis Falcons will be glad to see Makena Lejeune (in white) moving on to the collegiate ranks with the PACWest Camosun Chargers.

Sardis Falcon basketball stars making next-level leap

Makena Lejeune will join the Camosun Chargers while Azalya Forstbauer signs on with Calgary.

Two graduating Sardis stars are taking their basketball talents to the next level.

Azalya Forstbauer leaps into the U-Sports ranks this fall with the University of Calgary Dinos while Makena Lejeune moves to Victoria to play for the PACWest conference Camosun Chargers.

Forstbauer was on the radar of University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball coach Al Tuchscherer, but playing close to home wasn’t a selling point for the hard-nosed forward.

The opposite, in fact.

“I didn’t want to stay here,” she said. “I wanted to get out of Chilliwack and go somewhere else. I guess I just want something different.”

Calgary is that.

“I’m excited to play at the next level and meet new people,” Forstbauer said. “It’s a little intimidating too because I’ll be starting at the bottom playing against women who are older and more experienced than me, but I’m going to learn a lot.”

Forstbauer expects a more physical and fast-paced game at the university level.

A heart-and-soul player for the Falcons, who will study business in Calgary, Forstbauer brings the type of two-way game that coaches love.

Her high school bench boss, Gina Graves, has no doubt the teenager can succeed.

“Azalya is a defensive presence who can guard a guard, a wing or a post,” Graves said. “Offensively, she’s a threat to shoot or drive the ball and she set an unofficial school record last year pulling down 23 rebounds in one game.

“Anything you ask her to do she can do.”

Lejeune was pursued by three PACWest schools, with Douglas College and Quest University making a push for the guard.

“Also UFV for soccer,” added Lejeune, who is top-flight goaltender. “It took me until January to decide which sport I wanted to play.

“I like the energy around basketball, how it’s so much more exciting, but the big deciding factor was the weather.

“This winter was kind of brutal, and I’m a goalie and you stand around freezing, so I just wanted to play indoors.”

Once she settled on b-ball, Lejeune’s top priority was putting a little space between herself and Chilliwack.

Unlike Forstbauer, she didn’t need the entire Rocky Mountain range to do it.

“I wanted to move away but I didn’t want to go too far,” she explained. “Douglas is too close to home and Quest is in Squamish where there’s nothing to do and they didn’t have the program I wanted.

“My brother (ex-Sardis hoops star Hayden Lejeune) lives in Victoria and plays at UVic, so Camosun seemed like a perfect fit.”

On the court, Lejeune worries that her smaller stature will work against her at the next level.

She’s not tiny but she’s not big either and the point guard worries she’ll be pushed around. Graves, who is a Camosun basketball alum, believes Lejeune will be fine.

“It is very special for me to have her play at my old school and I have no worries about Makena being undersized next year,” Graves said. “Believe it or not, she is one of the best post players from the guard position that I have coached and her ability to drive, shoot and handle the ball will make her a threat at the next level.”

Graves will be following both girls closely this fall, eager to watch the next chapter of their basketball lives unfold.

“I am truly thankful to have coached, but more importantly, gotten to know these two outstanding young ladies over the past three years,” Graves said. “I don’t think I will ever have the opportunity to coach two girls as talented, funny, thoughtful, athletic and overall awesome as these two.

“They have made me extremely proud. I know they will find success at the next level.”