By Crystal Simmonds
Teaka Grizzle, last years M.V.P and women’s athlete of the year will not be returning to the hardwood this season.
“I got too much on my plate right now. I have to prioritize,” said Grizzle.
In spite of her passion for the game, her focus became finding a good job, finding an apartment in Toronto and managing her course load.
Last year Grizzle led the Ryerson Rams women’s basketball team in scoring, assists and steals. However it wasn’t enough to prevent the girls from finishing second last in the league.
Last year’s dismal team performance was heartbreaking for the outspoken former team captain.
“Ryerson’s athletes have always had the talent but lacked the mental toughness,” said Grizzle.
In the 2001-2002 season the varsity girls collectively stepped up their performances to make it to the semi-finals. They thought the next year would be their time.
“Every year seems to be a rebuilding year for the girlslast year shouldn’t have been,” said Grizzle.
Being the fierce competitor that she is, the OUA all-star wanted to take their performance as a team to the next level.
“It’s frustrating when you put in so much effort but it just doesn’t click,” she said.
It was a difficult decision for the Mississauga native to give up the sport she loves that’s why she hasn’t given it up completely.
“It’s hard to go from playing everyday, sometimes twice a day to nothing at all,” she said.
During her spare time she does conditioning exercises with the men’s varsity basketball team.
“Basketball will always be a part of my life,” she said.
Grizzle envisions herself coaching younger teams or giving speeches to young girls about what it takes to play basketball at a university level.
Grizzle’s departure from the team adds to the struggles the varsity girls will have to surmount in the coming season. The departure of several players and last years embarrassing season would seem to set the stage for animosity, however Grizzle said her former coach and teammates hold no grudges.
“Those girls are my closest friends,” said Grizzle. “We’re family.”
Grizzle says her former teammate Ashley Keohan possesses a unique mental toughness, making her most suitable to be team captain.
Keohan’s style is said to be laid back compared to her predecessor.
According to coach Porthier the major obstacle for the upcoming season will be avoiding the mental mistakes typically made by an inexperienced team.
Only two players are in their fourth year.
Nobody can fill Grizzle’s shoes, but there is talent to help fill the hole.
Star rookie Amanda Redhead had a double-double against Slovakia’s club team. Stephanie Hart hit five three-pointers scoring 18 points to lead the Rams to 66-62 victory. Another versatile player is Asha Forrester. Forrester hails from a championship college team in Calgary. Porthier believes Forrester can play post, has three point range and can clear the glass.
“Last year’s team caved when the going got tough,” said Porthier, who attributed last season’s disappointing performance to the lack of chemistry between veterans and rookies. “They just didn’t come together. This year we’re making sure everyone is on the same page,” she added.
Both Porthier and Grizzle said they were proud of the way the girls played their first game.
As for Grizzle, she says seeing the girls play is always bittersweet but she has no regrets.
Everyone wants to know if she would play as a Ram again.
The Ontario University Athletics all-star had these words: “Maybe. There is always the possibility.”