Jenika Bannerman (bottom) came very close to joining former GW Graham teammate Kaitlyn McDonald (top) at the University of the Fraser Valley. Instead she's going to the University of Victoria.

Grizzly basketball star commits to Vikes

After going back and forth between the University of the Fraser Valley and University of Victoria, Jenika Bannerman is joining the Vikes.

Jenika Bannerman tried her best to put it off for as long as possible.

The University of Victoria Vikes or the University of Fraser Valley Cascades?

Which one would the GW Graham senior girls basketball star be playing for next year.

She didn’t want to choose.

“I kind of wanted to brush it off,” Bannerman said with a smile.

Her mother was pressing her to make her mind up. Former GWG teammate Kaitlyn McDonald was sending full-court-press texts, urging Bannerman to join her at UFV.

The University of Alberta was briefly in the mix, but Bannerman was decisive about that.

“Too cold!” she said.

Bannerman’s mom finally gave her an end-of-January deadline to figure it out.

In the end, it was probably a campus visit that pushed Bannerman to the Vikes. As she walked over to the storied McKinnon Gymnasium, with Centennial Stadium rising in the background, she felt at home.

“There’s a lot of grass, trees and rabbits,” she laughed. “Everything is so perfectly placed. How it’s organized, with the kinesiology program right by the gym, it’s so perfect.”

Even better, Bannerman will be with the Vikes when they move into a brand new facility. The CARSA (Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities) is supposed to open in 2015.

Prior relationships played a role as well.

UVic coach Dani Sinclair was on the staff of Bannerman’s U-16 Team BC squad last year.

“But I’ve been in the Junior Cascades program since Grade 6 and I know all the coaches there,” she said. “UFV is amazing and I don’t have any bad things to say about them.”

Bannerman is the second Chilliwack hoops star to commit to UVic in recent days.

Sardis secondary school’s Hayden Lejeune, a  friend of Bannerman’s, did the same last week.

“I was so excited when I finally called Dani to tell her I was coming to UVic,” Bannerman said. “I was freaking out, like, ‘Oh my gosh! When can we start? What happens next?’”

What happens now is Bannerman plays out the end of the year with her Grizzlies, who seem primed for a run to provincials.

Currently sidelined with a concussion, she can’t wait to get back on the floor and help GWG finish strong.

Then it’s graduation time and off to her new adventure.

“I’m confident but I’m also nervous, and I think that’s good,” she said. “Going from playing full games to sitting on the bench as a rookie, I won’t be used to that and it’ll be a good learning experience.”

Bannerman’s coach at GWG, Sarah Mouritzen, has watched her grow up over the last few years and has no doubt her transition to CIS basketball will be smooth.

“Several of her U-16 Team BC teammates have also committed to play at UVic so they have a group of extremely competitive players coming in,” Mouritzen said. “Jenika has never shied away from an athletic challenge and I think going to UVic will challenge her in so many great ways. I absolutely believe UVic is a great fit for her.”