Emma Wolfram is used to being a big fish in a relatively small pond, but she found herself feeling somewhat petite at the Pan American Games last month.
Wolfram, 16, helped the Canadian women's basketball team to a sixth-place finish at the Games, which wrapped up Sunday in Guadalajara, Mexico.
It was quite an eye-opener for Wolfram who, at 6-foot-4, is likely the tallest and most dangerous big girl in the B.C. high school system. When she got to Mexico, where Canada went 1-3, she wasn't necessarily the biggest girl on the court.
"At the start, I was feeling undersized and a little small," Wolfram said. "But I felt I got stronger as I got on and played well at the end."
As if feeling undersized and small wasn't enough, Wolfram also felt young - she was the youngest player on a team that featured five players 18 or under.
And that young team went up against other teams featuring university and professional players and, in the case of Brazil's squad, two WNBA players.
"I was nervous at the start," Wolfram said. "Some of the girls (on Canada) were 25, but they all treated me well and I became friends with them throughout the tournament."
After leading the Titans to a third-place finish at AAA provincials in March, Wolfram had a solid offseason, helping Team B.C. to a second-place finish at the Canadian under-17 championships in Winnipeg in August and also the Canadian women's cadet team to a third-place finish at a world qualifier in Mexico in June. By finishing third, Canada qualified for the world cadet championship in 2012.
Wolfram was a late addition to the Pan Am Games team; she was named an alternate earlier in the fall, but got called up due to an injury.
But she really played well in Mexico, averaging a team-high 10 rebounds, 10.3 points (third on team) and 31:09 minutes (fourth). She also had a phenomenal 67 per cent field-goal percentage.
Pretty good numbers for someone who had to adjust to a much chippier style of play.
"They let way more go," Wolfram said. "There's not much you could do to get a foul. It was a little frustrating, but you sort of get used to it."
And the fans . . . well, they tended to be a little crazy.
"Every time we played before Mexico, the place was crowded," Wolfram said. "The one game, they were cheering against us for some reason, but they cheered for us the other times."
Wolfram has had quite a basketball career since entering Sa-Hali Secondary in 2008. She was MVP of the B.C. Grade 8 girls championship in in 2009, when the Sabres won, and then earned MVP honours as the Titans won the B.C. junior girls championship in 2010.
As a Grade 10 playing with the Titans' senior team last season, Wolfram was named top defensive players as South Kam took bronze at provincials.
She certainly has a future in the sport, and the folks at Basketball Canada seemed pleased with her play in Mexico, Wolfram says.
"They said they were excited at how well I did," Wolfram said. "They actually said they weren't expecting me to do as well as I did."
Wolfram isn't going to sit back and pat herself on the back after an excellent summer.
She's hitting the gym hard to improve her strength and fitness, and cherishes the opportunity she got at the Pan Am Games.
"I saw where I want my game to end up," Wolfram says. "I've got to get physically stronger and in better shape. I still have some things to work on, but someday I'll get there.
"There's quite a ways to go and lots to learn, but I still have university ahead of me."
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