For an entire basketball season Kehlsie Crone could only watch games and work in the gym to try to improve.
It was a long winter without competition, but knowing that the University of Regina would host the CIS women’s national basketball championships helped push the redshirt transfer.
Throughout the last year. the Moose Jaw guard looked to put herself in a position to be a major contributor for the Cougars when nationals came around. When the tournament opens today she hopes to make the most of her opportunity.
“It’s definitely been a process. I’ve definitely grown throughout the year and have improved. I’m happy with where I’m at right now and it’s where I want to be,” said Crone. “You set those goals of wanting to become a starter and wanting to be an impact player and I think I’ve definitely worked my way into those roles.”
The No. 3 ranked Cougars will open the eight-team CIS women’s basketball national championships tonight at 6:30 p.m. against the McGill Martlets.
Crone graduated from Vanier and opted to head to Utah and play NCAA basketball with Weber State. After her freshman season, she transferred to Regina, but had to sit out a season. For an intense competitor like Crone, it wasn’t the easiest of years.
“Redshirting was definitely a challenge,” said Crone. “It gave me a lot of time to work on my own game and to find out more about myself. I felt like it was a really good learning year for me. I knew what I was working towards with nationals being here.
“I was working on my shooting. I felt like I needed to become more consistent in my shooting. I was working on my ball-handling a lot. They both still need improvement, of course, but my shooting was definitely was my main concern.”
Crone played her way into a starting role for the Cougars as their shooting guard. She had a team-high 11 points and nine rebounds in the Cougars’ 53-37 over the University of Calgary Dinos in the Canada West final.
Crone is enjoying her return to Canadian basketball. She loves having some room to improvise and play at a higher tempo compared to the dictatorial offence that marked her time in the NCAA.
“The game style is so much quicker. The pace of the game is so much better. I enjoy it more and I play better in a quicker game. You find your shots better when the ball moves quicker,” she said. “It’s nice playing off of each other instead of a strict set of rules and guidelines. Of course we have plays that we have to run, but we can play within them.”
Crone has formed a nice backcourt tandem with point guard Michelle Clark. Though Clark is playing point, she actually led the Cougars in scoring with 14.7 points-per-game. Crone and Clark are both NCAA transfers. Clark — a product of Westlake Village, Calif. in Los Angeles County — played at Purdue for two seasons.
“We can both pick up the ball. We’ve learned how to play with each other, which is really fun,” said Crone.
The Cougars beat McGill 70-30 in Montreal in October, but that early-season game is a red herring. The Martlets were without their best player — 5-10 forward Anneth Him-Lazarenko — and had an off day. The Cougars feel their path to the title begins with strong defence.
“We need to play the defence that we know we can play — like we played in the Canada West final. Only giving up 37 points to Calgary is pretty awesome,” said Crone. We need to play within each other and have fun. We play our best basketball when we have fun.”
A year ago the Cougars went to nationals as the top-ranked team in the country. They were stunned by Calgary in the quarter-final and had their title hopes dashed. Crone wasn’t able to play, obviously, but the bitter memories are still strong.
“There’s going to be definite pressure,” Crone said of playing at home. “It kind of reminds me of last year. We were in that first game and we were ranked No. 1 and we were playing No. 8. We were supposed to win that first game and we ended up losing it and it devastating. So you don’t want that to happen again.
“We don’t really like to dwell on the past, but we all know that that’s what happened. We know that’s a feeling and a memory we don’t want to feel again.”