A friendship forged on the basketball court at GW Graham will continue at Douglas College this fall.
Julia Sprott and Sydney Fraess have both signed on with the Royals, a team playing womens’ b-ball in the PACWest conference.
Julia and Sydney are graduating from GWG in June, and looked for post-secondary landing spots together on a road-trip tour that took them to several schools.
The best friends traveled to Vancouver Island to visit the VIU Mariners, and toured Langara and Douglas.
They had road trips planned for Capilano College and Okanagan College before committing to Douglas.
“(GWG senior girls) coach Sarah (Mouritzen) said to us one day, ‘Why don’t you go somewhere together?’ and that got in our heads,” Julia said. “We said, ‘Yeah! We can go to school together and that would be the most awesome thing.’
“We ended up going to two practices at Douglas and we saw one of their home games and spent a day with some of their girls.
“Everything lined up so perfectly.”
In many ways, Sydney and Julia traveled the same path at GWG. Other players may have been flashier, but whatever they lacked in pure athletic ability, they made up for with drive and work ethic. Both were huge contributors to a team that advanced to the AA provincial final in February, finishing second.
“In Grade 10 I couldn’t shoot. I air-balled almost everything. I was terrible,” Sydney recalled. “But I had a good summer of training between Grade 10 and 11 and we had our home tournament at the start of the next year where I killed it.
“I suddenly started shooting threes and I hit six or seven in a game. I was so hyped up, and that’s where I came out of my shell.”
By the time her high school career wrapped up, Sydney fashioned herself into a player capable of knocking down outside shots and mucking it up in the paint.
For Julia, things changed late in her Grade 11 season, but for her it was more mental than physical.
“I’ve always struggled with self confidence and being able to go on the court and say, ‘I can do this,’ but at the end of that Grade 11 year something turned in my head,” she said. “Before then I was so nervous and scared on the court, but something changed where suddenly I was so hyped up to play.
“Basketball games became exciting for me.”
By the time Julia’s high school career ended, she’d cemented her status as a team-first player who did whatever was needed for her Grizzlies to succeed.
For many players making the next-level leap and dialing up the work ethic that Julia and Sydney already have down pat is the trickiest part.
High school stars who don’t feel the need to grind in practice because they’re more talented than their opponents find life difficult in an environment where everyone is a former high school star.
Because they’ve never been top talents, because they always had to work extra hard to earn their minutes, Julia and Sydney have a fantastic foundation in place.
“Sydney wears her heart on her sleeve and always has, and she’s going to go on to do great things,” Mouritzen said. “And Julia was the emotional backbone of our team, our best communicator and the first person to pick a teammate up.
“Our entire senior class (Sydney, Julia, Jaya Bannerman and Sofia Armengual) will be really hard to replace.”
Sydney is super excited to get the next chapter in her life started. There’s some nervousness going against more experienced players, and a little element of the unknown.
She feels she can compete, but until she’s on the court for real, she’s not 100 per cent sure. That’s why she’ll be so happy to have one friendly face at her side.
When she misses a shot or a defensive assignment and her confidence takes a hit, she knows she’ll have Julia there to pick her up, and vice versa.
Julia is just as thrilled.
“Two years ago, Sydney and I were just acquaintances on the same basketball team,” Julia said. “But we’ve kind of had the same journey, in a way, and we found each other and grew together.
“We trained together in the summer at the Cheam Centre. Sydney’s my person to call for a run and she has become my best friend.”