By Yvonne Ejim (as told to Katherine Dolan)
It all began with three simple questions from my club coach:
1. What do you want to do?
2. How far do you want to go?
3. Where do you want to go with this sport?
It was these three questions, the last one in particular that stuck with me.
I had been playing basketball since I was 7 years old, played for my provincial team, Team Alberta and I was playing for my country, Team Canada. I was being exposed to higher-level players and coaches and it was through that, I realized that I didn’t want to just play basketball until I finished high school. I wanted more. I wanted to make basketball my life. I decided to work hard, train hard, plan to go to University and pursue basketball as long as I could.
I was 13 years old.
So I kept working hard, practicing as much as I could and going to as many camps as I could. At 6 feet tall, I played and still play mostly at the forward position, either as a 1 or a 5. I played with Team Canada for 3 years going to Argentina, Belarus, and Thailand this past summer for FIBA Americas.
Then in Grade 10, the calls started coming. I never had a ‘dream school’ in mind for post-secondary, I just knew I wanted to go. The first school that started sending letters was Louisville. That was big. I was blown away that I was getting recruited by such a big school. Then along came Gonzaga, Iowa State University and Wake Forrest. I was so overwhelmed by all the attention and interest. It also made the decision of where to go, incredibly tough. But no complaints here, it was a good problem to have.
For me, it came down to Gonzaga and Iowa State because I loved both programs and wanted to be at both, but I knew that I couldn’t. Either school I went to, I knew that I would have the best four years of college experience.
I am proud to say that this past November, at 17, I just committed to Gonzaga University (NCAA) a Division 1 school, one of the top 25 ranked basketball schools in the US. If you could see the smile on my face, you would know just how happy I am where I am and that I made this decision.
Going into my last year of high school, I have a 90% average and I am applying to their human physiology program so that perhaps one day I can go into pre-medicine but it’s still early. Even when I graduate I still want to continue my basketball career, I just haven’t worked out those details yet.
Basketball has brought so much already to my life. I feel happy when I play, I am in my comfort zone. It may sound funny, but I feel more like me when I play basketball than anywhere else. Some people have different images of themselves at home and or at school but when it’s me playing basketball, it’s like, this is me, this is who I am.
Some say it’s a lifestyle but for me, it’s more than that. I am happiest when I am on the court playing.
I know that if you’re reading this, you too are a young athlete striving to be the best you can be in your sport and life. If I had any advice to younger athletes it would be to get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself in all areas of your life. Whether it’s school or with friends or in basketball, challenge yourself to be the best you can.
Even though I have signed I am still not stopping, because I have so much more to do beyond this point and I have to be ready and prepared. I am continuing to battle and fight hard, I can’t and won’t stop now because I have more stuff I want to do beyond this point and I need to be ready and prepared.
It makes me emotional to even say those words because I continue to get texts from family and friends saying how proud they are of me, knowing I am doing what I wanted to do. It’s crazy when you think about it, how I got here and how I’ve put in the hard work and now it’s paying off.
And to think, it all started with questions. So, make sure to ask yourself some tough questions. Figure out why you’re doing what you are doing and then commit to working hard and making your love or your sport, your life. I know that I am and I will.
See you on the court,