Top players, including one from Kamloops, are leaving their U Sports teams to play professional basketball overseas.
Maddy Gobeil on Saturday signed a contract to play in France for Le Poinçonnet Basket, opting for red-shirt status for the 2020-2021 U Sports campaign if it does go ahead in January.
The COVID-19 pandemic triggered the cancellation of fall Canada West team competition. League brass will decide no later than Nov. 2 whether second-term conference competition will proceed in the new year.
Deanna Tuchscherer, Gobeil’s best friend and roommate in Abbotsford during the school year, has also left the Cascades, who are coached by her father, Al Tuchscherer.
She is playing professionally in Hungary.
“If it [a U Sports season] did happen, I don’t want to lose eligibility the way the season would be played out,” Gobeil said, noting she is not confident Canada West play will resume in January. “It's already going to be condensed. It's going to be different with the way COVID is playing out. I'd rather use this year to get better and be able to have four more years left of eligibility.”
Gobeil, 19, was asked how coach Tuchscherer feels about her exodus.
“He’s totally in support,” Gobeil said. “In the spring, our whole team had individual talks with him, discussing what we want to do with our eligibility if there is a season.
“Some of us had already decided at that point we are going to red shirt anyway. He’s encouraging some of us to red shirt to save that year.”
Gobeil will be the youngest player on her new team, which is in the early stages of its 2020-2021 campaign.
The South Kamloops secondary graduate wants to improve against talented competition, experience an unfamiliar country and return to Canada in time for the 2021-2022 U Sports campaign.
“I’m coming back in the spring and playing the next four years with UFV,” said Gobeil, who led the South Kamloops Titans to provincial girls’ basketball titles in 2018 and 2019.
The club will pay for Gobeil’s one-bedroom apartment in Le Poinçonnet, which is about three hours south of Paris by car.
French classes at South Kam are about to start paying off.
“I definitely lost what I learned,” Gobeil said with a laugh. “I think I’ll be able to pick it up.
“I’m definitely a bit nervous, but I’m super excited and I think it will be really good for me, just getting outside of my comfort zone and learning how to do things on my own more.”
Gobeil is hoping to catch a flight on Tuesday.