Recruiting is essential for university sports teams, as in most cases, student-athletes play about four or five years with their team before graduating.
The Concordia Stingers women’s basketball team recruited great talents from college in the past years––Nelly Owusu being one of them.
Owusu played basketball for Dawson College in division 1 of the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) before playing for the Stingers. She was one of the best players in her league, especially in terms of defence, where she finished the 2017-18 season first in steals.
Head coach Tenicha Gittens said that when she recruited Owusu, she saw a player who had explosiveness, speed and an ability to take hold off defenders.
“It was amazing,” Gittens said. “She has one of the best attitudes. She’s definitely someone you want in your locker room, and as part of your program. We just saw her being able to be very disruptive on the defensive end of the floor.”
Owusu said she decided to join the Stingers because of the team’s coaching staff. She had offers from other places, such as McGill University and Bishop’s University, but Owusu said the coaches made her choice easier.
“I think it’s important to have a great coaching staff who believes in you and has your back,” Owusu said. “It’s important to know that your coaches not only care about you in terms of basketball, but also for your future. They’ll be around for the four-to-five years that you’re here.”
Owusu admitted she thought that the university basketball experience would be similar to when she played in college, but she quickly realized the difference in speed, strategies and talent level.
“At Dawson, we would [practice] an hour and a half, but it’s like two and a half hours here,” said Owusu. “It’s being able to remember everything, and apply it in the games. I thought I would be playing against all those same players that I played against in college, just like I played the same players in college that I played before in CEGEP.”
Gittens said the coaching staff was looking for that kind of defensive support when Owusu started with the Stingers. Owusu’s defensive game, as well as the little things she was bringing on the court, pushes her teammates to be better.
“When she first came here, it first took her like two games to kind of get the hang of it,” Gittens said. “Her ability to single handle defensively was what we were looking at. She was our leader defensively.”
Owusu has faced some challenging moments since her university debut. Unfortunately, two injuries slowed down her development, including an ACL tear. The point-guard said it was a frustrating moment, as it was her second ACL injury.
“I came in every day, and came at practice every day even if I couldn’t do much,” said Owusu. “I came back again for preseasons, but dislocated my shoulder. I really love basketball, and have played it for a long time. It was really demoralizing [to get hurt again], and be cheering from the bench once again. My experience [so far] includes a lot of determination, pushing and mental strength especially.”
Gittens said it’s hard to describe Owusu’s development so far because of her injuries. However, she thinks her defence has been an important part of the Stingers’s game since her arrival.
“When she’s really locked in, it opens up for more offensively. Nelly is more than just what you see on the scoresheet,” Gittens said. “On paper you’ll see steals, but you won’t see deflections. You won’t see that she created the steal. She was on her way to challenge Myriam [Leclerc] for rookie of the year, just based on what she was doing defensively. It was really exciting, and allowed us to play and do our thing.”
Owusu is obviously aware of her defensive talents, saying that she really likes the satisfaction of when she stops opponents, and does all those little things you won’t necessarily see on the scoresheet, but are as important as the baskets scored by the offence.
“When you get to lock down some specific players, for example the best players of the other teams, you feel that strength in you,” Owusu said. “I know that defence is important, even if a lot of people mostly just think about the amount of points and things like that. I feel like that low-key part is my best asset.”
With five games left to the team’s regular season, Owusu wants to improve her decision-making. She likes to attack the basket and shoot the ball, but is aware she sometimes needs to analyze the play better.
“Most of the time, all I see is the basket instead of looking around me and being aware of where the [opponent’s] defence is, or where my teammates are,” Owusu said. “If I’m not patient and not making the right decision, I can [make us lose possession]. If I do my job on defence, that’s fine, but if I can’t do it on the other end, than it won’t help the team.”
Photos by Cecilia Piga