Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Winnipeg's Faith Hezekiah? Check.
UNBC's Vasiliki Louka? Check.
Saskatchewan's Summer Maskewich? Check.
Fraser Valley's Taylor Claggett? Next.
Every week, MacEwan Griffins women's basketball player Shannon Majeau gets the distinct pleasure of matching up against a who's who of the top players in Canada West.
The assignment is as tough as it gets, with all her marks accustomed to double doubles, including Claggett, who will lead UFV into action against the Griffins on Friday (6 p.m.) and Saturday (5 p.m., both David Atkinson Gym).
"I think I'm able to focus more if I have one person – I know I have to stop her and that's my goal for the game," said the 6-foot-1 Majeau. "I think I'm big enough that I can defend the bigs and quick enough that I can defend their moves. Faith (Hezekiah) last weekend wasn't a true big, but I found I could stay with her because I was able to move with her."
The most successful defensive weekend of her career came last season as a rookie when head coach Katherine Adams sent her out against Louka.
In the middle of a dominant season that netted her a conference second team all-star honour, the 6-foot-4 Greek averaged 18.2 points a game with just three matches all season where she didn't hit double digits.
Two of those were against Majeau.
"That was probably the most fun (weekend) last year for me," said the Stony Plain product, who limited Louka to seven and eight points, respectively, in 58-50 and 59-57 Griffins' wins last November. "I find during the game, once you figure out how they move, you can shut that down.
"You can do as much scout as you want, but when you get into the game, there might be something different you haven't seen before. I like being able to defend one-on-one."
Now she will face the 5-foot-11 Claggett, who recently broke the Canada West record for free throws, knocking down 20 of 24 against Alberta last Friday.
"Being able to apply what we've said in the scout, but also being able to learn on the fly – you need both to be able to succeed," said Majeau.
For all her early success defending top forwards from around the conference, it's important to note that Majeau is only in her second university season. She's still very much learning on the fly after starting 12 games last season and every one so far for the Griffins in 2018-19.
"The growth that she's made from this time a year ago has been outstanding," said Adams. "In high school, she had success based on her size and athleticism. She's really worked hard at developing her skill-set, so now she's a back-to-the-basket presence, she can get in and create opportunities for herself one-on-one and make stuff happen for her teammates because she is such a presence inside."
Majeau grew up in Scotland before moving with her family to Canada before high school. She played a little bit of basketball over there (along with netball – a game with some transferable skills) but took to the hardcourt since moving to Stony Plain.
Originally recruited to MacEwan to play volleyball after a solid senior season as a middle with Memorial Composite, Majeau chose to play basketball instead.
"I didn't play a lot of volleyball before high school, but I had a really good Grade 12 season, so I got invited to try out for Team Alberta and came on a recruiting visit here," she explained. "But that was before my basketball season had started. I was kind of hoping for basketball and was just waiting to see what would happen."
Adams said it took "all of eight seconds" into her initial workout for the her to decide she would become an important part of the Griffins' future.
"I think if you had told Shannon she would be in the position she's in when she first committed to coming here … she wouldn't have believed you," said Adams. "She's a relatively unknown, who has come from a small school, but she's a great athlete with great work ethic.
"She's really developing into a solid player for us – fills a lot of roles. We've asked a lot from her."
The next ask is more offence, which will come as she continues to develop. Majeau has had looks this season, but she's averaging just 5.5 points a game in 25 minutes on the court each night.
"We've been talking about being composed with the ball," she said. "When I get the ball, I'm focusing on not panicking; I don't have to do something right away. I'm really focused on not throwing it away.
"I'm working to develop my post moves and back-to-the-basket stuff, so I can get more inside (success)."