Heather Thomson will follow in some very large footsteps this fall when she moves to Alberta.
The soon-to-be graduated GW Graham basketball star has secured a spot on the hoops team at Lethbridge College.
Heather’s towering brother, six-foot-five Chris Thomson, also went to Lethbridge after leaving GWG, spending one year at the college and another at Lethbridge University.
Heather, five-foot-eight and the third-youngest of seven siblings, said all of her older brothers and sisters ended up in Lethbridge after high school.
But not all of them had her athletic ability.
“I was accepted into both the college and the university for school, but once there was a spot on the basketball team at the college, I was going there for sure,” she said. “That was the only question.”
Thomson started playing basketball in Grade 8 and credits her first coach, Ken Heise, for teaching her and nurturing a hunger for the game.
Thomson the hoops-newbie had a knack for going the wrong way on the court, sprinting toward the opposite basket on fast breaks.
She did it twice in one game, but Heise got her going in the right direction, and in short order helped mould her into a very capable shooting guard.
In her Grade 12 season at GWG she helped the Grizzlies advance to provincials, and established her credentials as someone who may do well at the next level.
“Heather has always been a fierce competitor and became a lethal shooter over the last few years,” said Sarah Mouritzen, her head coach last season. “She’s been a starter on the senior girls team since grade 10 and she had some major breakout games this year where she topped 30 points.”
Coming from a sportsy family, Thomson’s also good at volleyball and has dabbled in soccer and field hockey.
“I still love all the sports, but I think it was seeing my brother play and having good coaching from Ken and Sarah — that’s why basketball ended up being my big sport,” she said. “Both of them pushed me to be a better player and love the game, more than in anything else I played.”
Thomson put all her focus on b-ball in Grade 11 and started emailing the Lethbridge Kodiaks coach in January.
She sent video to Brad Karren and visited the campus over spring break.
“I went to a couple of their practices and after I got back he phoned and said he had a spot for me,” Thomson said. “I was like, ‘Is this real? Really?’ I was so happy and I was probably very annoying the rest of the conversation.”
“I was just so glad knowing I get to keep playing and it’s not going to be over.”
Thomson is a lethal shooter and good defender, but expects she’ll have to work on ball-handling to succeed at the next level.
Off the court, she’ll study in the one-year Wind Turbine Technician program.
“It seems interesting and different to me and a cool career path to take, and I might also go into exercise science, so I can be a personal trainer,” she said. “I’m nervous and excited about this and I think it’s going to be a big step in my life.”
On and off the court, Heise has zero doubt she will succeed.
“After 40 years of coaching she is one of my all time favourites.”