Gage Grassick named Canada West First Team All-Star, Huskies hungry for playoff success

Photo by Electric Umbrella/Liam Richards. Gage Grassick of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies attempts to drive past a Calgary defender during Canada West action in Saskatoon earlier this season.

The University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s basketball team was the cream of the crop in Canada West during the regular season and their starting point guard was a major reason why.

Prince Albert product Gage Grassick was named a Canada West First Team All-Star for the first time in her USPORTS career.

In 20 games for the Huskies this season, Grassick averaged 13.0 points per game, five rebounds and four assists. She shot 40.7% from the field, 26.9% from beyond the arc and 74.6% from the free throw line.

Grassick, a graduate of Carlton Comprehensive High School, says the individual award wouldn’t be possible without her teammates and coaches.

“It’s a really great honor. I’m super grateful for it, but it stems from having such amazing teammates and coaches. I wouldn’t be awarded what I am without them, so I’m super grateful for them.”

Last season, Grassick was named a Canada West Third Team All-Star in her first full season as a starter for the Huskies.

Head coach Lisa Thomaidis has been at the helm of the women’s basketball program since prior to the 1998-99 campaign and has earned numerous accolades, including her sixth Canada West Coach of the Year honor this season. She says Grassick has blossomed into a heart and soul player for the Huskies.

“She’s had such an amazing year. I think she’s really taken her game to another level this season. Coming off last year, she was solidly our starting point guard and took the team to being ranked number one in the country, and then had a disappointing playoff stand. I think she really took that to heart and worked on her game in the offseason and you can see it reflected in her play this year. She really is the engine that drives our team and (it’s) great that the other coaches acknowledge that and see her worth to our program.”

Now starring at the USPORTS level for a Huskies squad ranked second in the country, Grassick had a rural upbringing with her primary hoop at home not being on pavement, but on well-worn grass.

She says she is grateful for the opportunity to play for one of the top programs in the country.

“Stepping back and looking when I first picked up a basketball, I didn’t really think it’s where it would take me being in the position I am. With the great team I have but I am ultimately so grateful for that and I’ve learned so much being on this Huskie team being under Lisa Thomaidis (who is) one of, if not the best coach in the country.”

The point guard in basketball is looked at as one of the leaders for the team on the court. Traditionally in basketball, the point guard serves as the on-court coordinator for the team’s offense and is looked at as one of the team’s leaders.

Grassick has served as the starting point guard for the Huskies all season long. Thomaidis had high praise for what Grassick brings to the team both on and off the court.

“As a leader, she’s one of the best we’ve ever had.” Thomaidis explains. “She never has a bad day. She is always vocal, always positive. She knows how to relate to her teammates, to be demanding, but in a real positive way. She’s just a great asset to have. She always brings positive energy to every single practice, every single game. When you have a leader like that, that you can count on, it goes a long way. She’s been fantastic and I can’t say enough about her.”

Grassick and the Huskies took massive strides on the defensive side of the ball. Grassick finished third in Canada West averaging 2.9 steals per game

“We knew from last year into this year, something we really needed to improve on was just our defensive ability,” Grassick says. “Being able to step up and pressure the ball a little bit more really helps me have such an amazing defender like Andy (Andrea) Doding, Téa Demong on our team that helps you out in the backside as well. Just having such a defensive strong core on our team allows for lots of players like myself to get up pressure a little bit more and then convert on steals.”

Grassick was not the only Huskie to receive Canada West honors. Third-year guard Téa Demong took home second team honours while fifth year standout Carly Ahlstrom was given third team honours.

Thomaidis says both players were very deserving of the recognition.

“Téa came in the same rookie year as Gage, and we knew getting both of them was going to be a huge coup for our program. They’re both very talented players, great athletes, love the game of basketball (and) work really hard. This is her first time as an All-Star, very well deserved. (She) just elevated her level of play. I think we always saw that her first couple of years, but her level of consistency was what I think took her to that next level this season.”

“Carly Ahlstrom, in her fifth year, was Canada West MVP last season. She’s someone that every team knows they have to prepare for, even despite that, she’s been able to still put up big numbers. She’s just a wonderful athlete, a dynamic athlete that can do things on the court that not many others can do.”

Last year, the Huskies fell short of their ultimate goal finishing fourth in the Canada West with a loss against the University of Alberta Pandas 69-57.

Thomaidis says the Huskies have taken the results from last season to heart and have put in all the work to come out on top at the Canada West championships this weekend in Abbotsford.

“I think character really shows up in your response to when things don’t go your way and I think it really showed the character of our team and what they were willing to do to make sure that something like last year didn’t happen again and (to) do everything they could to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We’re at the point where we’ve put in all the work that we possibly could have. There’s no regrets. There’s nothing more that could have been done. This team’s prepared and now we just have to go out and perform.”

Results from the Huskies Thursday evening game against the UBC Okanagan Heat were not available as of press time. If the Huskies win, they would take on the winner of Regina and UFV at 5 p.m. Saskatchewan time on Friday evening.