GW Graham basketball star signs on with Trinity Western Spartans

Grizzly grad Jaya Bannerman is opting to stay close to home after graduating in June.

The next step in Jaya Bannerman’s basketball career isn’t taking her far from home.

The Chilliwackian will be moving 45 minutes up the freeway (depending on traffic) to play at Langley’s Trinity Western University.

“I didn’t want to go too far from my parents or where I grew up,” the teenager said. “There were some other interesting schools, but Trinity is close to home, they’ve got a great basketball program and great academics.”

Bannerman looked into Thompson Rivers University and actually visited the Kamloops campus. She had contact with Quest University in Squamish, MacEwan University in Edmonton, Red Deer College and others.

But the other big factor drawing Bannerman to Trinity was head coach Cheryl Jean-Paul.

Bannerman traveled to Langley several times over the last few years to play in scrimmages put on by Jean-Paul. The two started talking seriously this year and Bannerman was impressed by her approach.

“It wasn’t just, ‘Come to my program,’” she said. “She told me she’s there to support me with basketball and academics and whatever I need.

“Some programs, basketball and school aren’t always equal, but you can’t forget about your studies because baskeball’s not forever.

“You go to school to get a career.”

Bannerman’s high school career came to a close March 3 with a heartbreaking loss to South Kamloops in the AA senior girls’ provincial final. Bannerman has been synonomous with GWG hoops for several seasons, teaming with Deanna Tuchscherer to form one of the most devastating duos in B.C.

She has, in fact, been a fixture for several GWG sports teams, playing soccer, field hockey, cross country and track and field. The thought from several watchers was that eventually she’d have to focus on basketball if she wanted to get to the next level. She dropped dance classes in Grade 10, but otherwise it turns out she was OK doing it her multi-sport way.

“I’ve played basketball since I was little and that and soccer were always my two main sports,” Bannerman said. “I knew I had to make a decision, but it was always so hard.

“I just couldn’t stop playing one sport to focus on another, but in Grade 12 I finally started spending more time on basketball and putting field hockey and other sports to the side.

“I still played those sports, but basketball became my main thing.”

Bannerman estimates she invested about 15 hours weekly, working out in the gym or fine-tuning her shooting.

That’s on top of practices and games.

“And I’ve got club season coming up this summer,” she added.

Bannerman’s strength is her finishing ability around the net, her speed and her quick hands on defence. Her outside shooting is solid as well, making her a well-rounded offensive threat.

As for weaknesses, she believes she needs to work on keeping her energy and intensity at a consistently high level.

“I tend to start out real fiery and slowly throughout the game get tired,” Bannerman said. “Cheryl asked me what I thought I needed to work on, and another one I came up with was needing to use my left hand more, because I almost always drive with my right.”

Bannerman’s new team is coming off a very solid season in the Canada West conference of U-Sports basketball. Trinity finished the 20 game regular season slate with a record of 16-4. The Spartans beat the Alberta Golden Bears in the opening round of the playoffs but were stopped by the University of Saskatchewan in round two.

Trinity lost the Canada West bronze-medal match to the Calgary Dinos by the heartbreaking score of 65-63.

“I’m definitely really excited to join them, but nervous too to take such that big step,” Bannerman said. “Playing against women who are in their fifth year, I know I’ll have to work really hard to keep up with them.”

Bannerman leaves a strong legacy at GWG for the next generation to follow. She joins a long list of Grizzly grads who’ve helped form the foundations of a program that contends for provincial titles year after year. Bannerman is justifiably proud of what she’s accomplished in her GWG career.

“The girls who came before me were fantastic athletes who set a high bar for GWG,” Bannerman said. “We all wanted to live up to that and play the way they played, and I’d like to be remembered the way they are.”

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