By Ben Waldman
Sofia Paska doesn’t watch a lot of basketball; she never really has and probably never will.
“I don’t ever watch [it],” she said. “It’s just one weird thing about me.”
More than halfway through her rookie season at Ryerson, the six-foot-four forward from Etobicoke could have convinced anyone otherwise.
An intimidating presence at both ends of the floor, Paska is averaging 10.6 points to go along with 5.9 rebounds per game. Despite all of that success, she is still her harshest critic.
“I need to have more consistent games,” Paska said, citing her performance in Ryerson’s loss to U of T on Jan. 7.
Before taking up hoops, Paska dabbled in soccer and dance, but found her home on the court when she was eight years old. Noticing her sizeable height advantage, coaches immediately stuck Paska in the post, where she consistently dominated shorter opponents.
Throughout her high school career at Richview Collegiate Institute, Paska received attention from several schools in both Canada and the U.S., including DePaul and Michigan State universities.
Luckily for Ryerson coach Carly Clarke, Paska elected to stay home in Toronto.
“[Paska] is a key piece of our team’s future,” Clarke said earlier this season. “She’s one of the top rookies in the conference.”
There is no doubt that Paska could have played major minutes in the NCAA, but her decision to play for the Rams was an easy one to make.
“Coach Clarke didn’t pressure me. She just seemed like the best coach for me,” Paska said. “Being able to be comfortable [with the team and staff] is very important to me.”
Unlike a lot of collegiate athletes, the classroom is just as important to Paska as her on-court performance. That’s a good thing, seeing as she hopes to be a teacher one day.
Stath Koumoutseas, the curriculum leader of athletics at Richview and a former mentor to Paska, said he is not surprised to see her excelling at the next level.
“She really deserves it,” said Koumoutseas. “She’s just such a sweet kid and she’s as good as any post player I’ve seen [at the high school level].”
Often, people stare at Paska, or assume that she is as fierce in real life as when she is snagging a rebound from the other team. However, all of these misconceptions disappear as soon as she cracks a smile.
“I’m just a nice person, I guess,” said Paska exuberantly. “I can’t help it.”