Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Newcomers and younger Griffins who are fighting for increased minutes this season have dipped their toes in the waters of U SPORTS women's basketball competition so far this fall.
Now, they will finish off preseason play with a trip as they head to the 50th annual Naismith Classic at the University of Waterloo this weekend.
The Griffins will meet host Waterloo on Thursday (4 p.m. MT), Laurier on Friday (10 a.m. MT) and Canada West opponent Mount Royal University on Saturday (2 p.m. MT).
"We've been managing some injuries in the preseason, so hopefully this is an opportunity to have our healthiest team on the floor – the team we're going to be heading into league play with," said MacEwan head coach Katherine Adams. "So, it's really important for us from that sense – it's our final preseason competition where we start to gear up for league play.
"And it's really great we get to do it in an environment with the 50th Naismith Classic. It will be a great environment. I've not been there, but I've heard they do a really good job and put on a really great tournament, so we're looking forward to experiencing that."
MacEwan's men's team has previously attended the tournament, winning it in 2014. The women's team, however, under Adams' tenure – now in her third year – is going for the first time.
The Griffins have four first-year players this season, who have been gaining experience throughout preseason. But the exhibition slate has also been crucial for returning players who are stepping into expanded roles.
"There have been a lot of changes to the roster – not only personnel changes, but role changes," said Adams. "So, people who were fighting to get minutes last year are now playing bigger roles. Having them adjust to that and gain experience in that role is very important."
The Griffins have an 0-3 record in three non-conference games so far – valuable learning opportunities against tough Canada West squads Calgary and Manitoba.
"The positive thing is that everyone's had an opportunity to gain some experience, to play. We've played against some really good competition so far. Calgary's always really strong – they finished fifth in the country last year," said Adams of a 71-36 loss on Sept. 16.
"That early test was a great chance to just see where we're at and experience competition at this level again."
"Against Manitoba, it was a veteran team coming up – it was another great opportunity to gain experience," she added of 85-63 and 80-52 losses on Sept. 28-29. "We're still really young and with some of the injuries we've been managing … it was a great experience for them."
Following the Naismith Classic, the Griffins return to Edmonton to prepare for their season opener at cross-town rival Alberta on Oct. 25 (6 p.m., Saville Centre) and their home opener against the Pandas on Oct. 27 (Noon, David Atkinson Gym).