By Joel Wass
My favourite Ryerson athlete has been named female athlete of the year and an Ontario University Athletics women’s basketball all-star.
She’s been one of the most feared defensive players in the country and has led her team to within one win of the national championships. She’s even been previously ranked in The Eyeopener’s top 10 Ryerson athletes.
Teaka Grizzle’s athletic accolades are impressive-I wouldn’t have listed them otherwise-but they have nothing to do with why she is my favourite Ryerson athlete. She’s tops in my books because at the peak of her athletic career she chose to focus on her education.
No more than five months after winning female athlete of the year, Teaka informed her coach Sandy Pothier that she wouldn’t be returning to the team she’d been captain of the year before.
The announcement came as quite a shock, considering just four years prior Teaka’s main reason – and arguably only reason-for coming to Ryerson was to play basketball. “I wanted to take psychology, but I had to change that plan when I came to Ryerson because I found out Ryerson didn’t have a psychology program,” Teaka recalls.
During her first three seasons on the team Teaka says “basketball was [her] number one priority, without question.” Her relentless dedication definitely payed dividends.
In 2001-02 she helped Ryerson upset heavily-favoured Laurentian University in the playoffs and in 2002-03 she led her team in steals, points and minutes. But her dedication to basketball was also causing school to become an increasingly distant second priority.
Then one day, Teaka couldn’t get her head around one disturbing thought: Was basketball the only reason she was paying Ryerson more than $5,000 a year in tuition? At the risk of letting down her teammates, Teaka realized the best decision for her was to leave the team and focus on school.
She could have been one of Ryerson’s all-time greats, but Teaka decided she’d rather be a Ryerson graduate. And while Teaka’s decision may have hurt Ryerson in terms of wins and losses, the athletic department should take great pride in knowing one of its top athletes values the education she is receiving over sports-an unheard of notion at many American schools.
Leaving the team allowed Teaka to readjust her priorities, school becoming her new Number One. She’s improved her marks in Business Management and is happy to report she’s “doing well in school” and is “loving her program.”
While the women’s team struggled all year to replace Teaka’s intensity and leadership, she never questioned whether or not she made the right choice. But after a year away, she could no longer deny her desire to return to the hardwood.
So, two days before the first day of school this year, Teaka decided to try out for the team, again. Three months into her comeback, Teaka acknowledges she is not the same impact player she once was-then again, neither was Michael Jordan in his final comeback. She’s no longer team captain, but Teaka takes comfort in knowing she’s playing basketball for the right reason.
“Before I use to cry about games,” Teaka says. “But now I don’t get frustrated…the reason I came back was because I love playing basketball.”
She says it was her love for the game-damn you Kevin Costner, for making that sentimental cliché sound sappy-that led her into working at Bring Your ‘A’ Game with former Ryerson men’s basketball player Yaw-Scottie Afful.
Bring Your ‘A’ Game, one of the top recruiting services in Canada, sets up games for the province’s top female high school basketball players to play in front of Canadian and U.S. university and college scouts.
Teaka helps the younger athletes with all facets of the game, but the most helpful thing she does is give them advice on school.
“I tell them that it’s not smart to come to a school just to play basketball,” Grizzle says.
“I tell them school is the most important thing and let them know that, at the end of the day, you have to look after yourself. No one else is going to.”