By Kintaro Skinner
For the past nine seasons, Ryerson’s women’s basketball program has started its year by hosting the Darcel Wright Memorial Classic, an exhibition tournament featuring schools from across Canada.
Ryerson finished third on Oct. 22, but the tournament isn’t really about winners or losers, rebounds or three-pointers. It’s about remembering Darcel Wright, one of Ryerson’s best and brightest.
To have a tournament played in one’s memory is an incredible honour. So, who exactly was Darcel Wright?
One of Ryerson’s greatest athletes, Wright—who died of cancer in 2008 and played for the Rams from 1990-1994—was known for her talent and fiery competitive spirit. She was twice named the female athlete of the year, and in 2001 was inducted into Ryerson’s Athletics Hall of Fame, the first women’s basketball player to earn that accolade.
“It was an absolute pleasure to coach her,” said Wright’s former coach Theresa Burns, who was at the 2017 tournament leading the McMaster Marauders.
Burns, who coached the Rams from 1988-1992, has fond memories of Wright and what she gave to Ryerson basketball. She coached Wright in her first season, when Wright was named the 1991 national rookie of the year.
“I just remember her having this big smile,” Burns said. “But on the court, she just was a fierce competitor.”
After concluding her playing career, Wright had coaching stints with both McMaster and Ryerson, also working with Basketball Ontario and acting as a community mentor. Wright worked extensively with Girls Addicted to Basketball, a non-profit committed to empowering and educating young women through basketball.
“She was just a beautiful, wonderful person,” Burns said. “I was lucky that I had an opportunity to know her and coach her.”
Current Ryerson coach Carly Clarke views the tournament as a way to show her team what Rams basketball is about. The tournament—formerly the Ryerson Rams Classic—is now an annual reminder of Wright.
“Having the tournament in her name means something to our program,” Clarke said. “We make sure to reiterate that every year.”