Taiysa Worsfold has been around the TRU WolfPack since the beginning.
When she was in Grade 7, she volunteered as a ball girl for the WolfPack volleyball teams, working the sidelines at matches at the old TRU Gym. She got sucked into volunteering at basketball games too, and ended up doing it for three seasons.
Now 18, Worsfold will suit up for her first Canada West game with the WolfPack women's basketball team on Friday, 6 p.m., when the Fraser Valley Cascades visit the Tournament Capital Centre.
Worsfold, a former Sa-Hali Sabres guard, is the biggest local recruit the WolfPack has had in its six seasons in Canada West.
And she's excited to be wearing the orange and black of the WolfPack, a program she has grown up around.
"The fifth-year girls, when I started watching, they were coming in," said Worsfold, who will be wearing No. 11. "It's weird playing with them, because I've watched them and never thought I would get the chance."
Worsfold signed with the WolfPack in September 2010, before her senior season had begun. She battled through a leg injury but helped the Sabres to their third straight fifth-place finish at provincials in March.
In Worsfold's mind, there never was a doubt that she would end up at TRU, although the sport changed somewhere along the way.
"Originally I wanted to be a soccer player," said Worsfold, who was honoured as Kamloops' top female athlete in April. "Then I met (head coach) Scott (Reeves), and I realized basketball was my favourite sport.
"Ever since the end of Grade 8, when I started playing basketball, I knew I wanted to play here."
Worsfold is the highlight of Reeves's recruiting class - TRU also signed Vernon's Britney Walton and Vanderhoof's Dana Clarkson, both forwards, and guards Jade Montgomery-Waardenburg of Kelowna and Sarah Malate of Calgary.
All three B.C. girls are former provincial team players, but Reeves isn't in a hurry to get them big minutes, and that includes Worsfold, who had an excellent preseason.
"There's no question (Worsfold) is going to be a scoring threat, and her basketball IQ is right up there," said Reeves, who is going into his sixth season with the WolfPack. "But she's going to need time to get experience at this level to become a great player."
Having that depth and experience is a luxury Reeves has this season, one for which he is especially optimistic.
It was only three seasons ago, in 2008-09, when TRU had 11 players in their first or second years. Now, the WolfPack's roster features an older group, including three fifth-year girls - guard Kaitlyn Widsten and forwards Kailey Colonna and Michelle Dimond.
"When we had 11 first- or second-year kids, if you put that in the grand scheme of things . . . it's like having Grade 8 and 9 kids playing against Grade 11 and 12 kids," Reeves said. "Now we have a nice balance . . . and our veteran leadership is going to really show this season."
The roster has the players excited, too, especially considering all of the starters from last season's team are back. TRU went 9-15, missing the playoffs but setting a program record for victories.
"This is the oldest team we've had here," said Colonna, who averaged four points and six rebounds last season, and was second in Canada West with 1.4 blocked shots per game. "For us fifth-years, it's the last seasons of our lives, so our motivation comes from there."
Canada West has been split into two divisions this season, with the WolfPack, Cascades, Trinity Western Spartans, UBC Thunderbirds, Victoria Vikes and the first-year UBC-Okanagan Heat comprising the West Division.
TRU will play each of those teams twice, along with one game against each of the eight East Division squads for an 18-game schedule. The top four teams from the East and the top three from the West make the playoffs, with a "wild-card" spot available for the next-best finisher.
"The bottom line is that, with an 18-game schedule, we're almost like an NFL team, which has a 16-game schedule," Reeves said. "You lose one game that you shouldn't and there's a good chance you're not in the playoffs."
And it appears as though Canada West is best, at least compared to the other conferences in the CIS. Five Canada West teams appear in the preseason top-10 rankings, including the No. 1 Regina Cougars, No. 4 Saskatchewan Huskies and No. 5 Thunderbirds.
The Alberta Golden Bears are No. 8, while the WolfPack's opening-weekend opponent, Fraser Valley, is No. 9.
Worsfold can't wait to get at it, even if she is a little nervous.
"They're No. 9 in the country, so it's a good team to start with," she said. "I get nervous before some games, and I'll probably get a little nervous before this one."
FOUL SHOTS: The other new player on the roster is G Rae-Maryse Laljee. Laljee, a product of the Vancouver-York House Tigers, who have appeared in the last 11 B.C. AA finals, has transferred from Trinity Western but must sit out this season. . . . According to TRU's website, Malate is the only WolfPack player not from B.C. . . . The WolfPack played Fraser Valley twice in Abbotsford in 2010-11, losing 65-64 and 70-55. . . . The WolfPack and Cascades also will play Saturday, 5 p.m., at the TCC.
© Kamloops Daily News