On the outside, Louise Forsyth may come across as quiet, but make no mistake, there is a competitive fire inside.
A few years ago, a list of the top 15 girls basketball players from around the province came out but Forsyth did not find her name among the honourees.
The annual list highlights the province’s top senior girls players, regardless of what grade they are in.
And while some underclassmen might be OK with the exclusion, Forsyth — who was in Grade 9 — noticed two of her fellow 2017-class players did make the cut.
Needless to say, there is no overlooking Forsyth anymore.
Last week, she was named the B.C. Senior Secondary Schools Girls Basketball Association player of the year.
The players were selected by a panel of BCSSGBA members from around the province and the award means a lot to Forsyth.
“Especially because it is chosen by all the coaches around the province,” she said.
“It shows that hard work does pay off.”
Forsyth is the rare high school player who spent all five of her high school seasons with the senior team.
Neil Brown, the veteran Brookswood coach, was told a long time ago that Forsyth would one day play for him.
Brown had coached her mother, Linda, at UBC, back when he was an assistant coach. Years later, he would run into Linda and her toddler daughter at Thunderbird games and the mother would say that one day, her daughter would come play for him.
In Forsyth’s Grade 7 year, the family moved to Langley, and that summer, she joined the Bobcats for their off-season workouts.
Part of the training included grueling runs.
“She was a skinny kid, but she could run,” Brown said. “Even our older kids were amazed. We were shocked she could do it.”
Forsyth never complained it was too tough, but just worked harder every day.
And when the time came for basketball season to start that fall, Forsyth joined the senior squad rather than the Grade 8 team.
“There was really not a lot of discussion,” Brown said. “For Grade 8’s to play senior, you have to have something or be willing to develop differently than a Grade 8 would.”
She remembers a sense of awe and excitement of the chance to play senior basketball, instead of dominating her own age group.
And while Brown can come across as gruff and demanding, no matter who the player is, Forsyth was able to put that aside.
“He was never afraid to yell at me, even though I was in Grade 8, he still yells at practice,” Forsyth said. “(But you just have to) listen to what he was saying and not really how he said it.”
Brown said Forsyth has a strong belief in herself, which all elite athletes require.
While some players may get down if their shot does not fall, Forsyth was always able to shake it off. She also doesn’t require to have her confidence stroked.
“If you need everyone to pat you on the ass and tell you how good you are, you are not going to make it,” Brown said.
“If you are going to get good at something you need that inner belief of who you are and what you can do and she certainly has that.”
Playing at Brookswood may be demanding, but it also provides an opportunity for the players, providing they are willing to put the work in.
“Not everyone takes advantage of it (but) she is one of those kids … who has a vision of where she is going,” Brown said.
And where she is going next — after graduating from Brookswood this June — is Gonzaga University.
The six-foot-guard signed her National Letter of Intent to join the school back in November.
According to ESPN’s HoopGurlz recruiting rankings, Forsyth is a five-star recruit ranked 48th in the 2017 class. She is also the top-ranked Canadian.
“Louise is a high level shooter. She has an amazing work ethic and such an eagerness to learn,” Gonzaga head coach Lisa Fortier said on the school’s website, back in November. “She brings great length to the wing, which we will utilize heavily on defence.
“Lou is very comfortable playing at a fast pace. She will be able to stretch the defence and allow us to continue to work inside out.”
Forsyth chose the Spokane university because it was relatively close to home, had a good family atmosphere vibe at the university, has both a strong basketball tradition and for the fact other international students have done well there.
And it is her work ethic and never-ending drive that sets her apart.
While others can only perform at a high-level in short bursts, Forsyth — who also runs cross country — does not have that problem.
“Her engine is different than other humans,” Brown said. “She is a strange combination of aerobic and anaerobic.”
That can also be one of her pitfalls, however.
“You can work too hard and need days off,” Brown said, explaining that the coaching staff would schedule a day off but Forsyth would find something else to do.
“We had to have a few discussions this year to take a day off, to relax. It is just not something in her DNA to relax, and I think sometimes it hurt her. You can wear yourself out.”
Forsyth wrapped up her high school career on Saturday night by helping Brookswood win the bronze medal at the B.C. AAA senior girls provincial basketball championships.
It marked the fifth medal of her high school hoops career as she won silver in Grade 8 and then gold in each of the next three years. She was also named a provincial first team all-star for the second straight year.
Forsyth now shifts her focus to perhaps representing Basketball Canada for a third straight summer. She is scheduled to attend a national team training camp at the end of the month.
Forsyth will also compete in track and field for Brookswood.
Mallette, Rowell earn honours
Two other Langley high school players were also named among the top 15 senior players in the province.
Katelyn Mallette, who will join the UFV Cascades in the fall after graduating from Langley Christian, was surprised with her inclusion on the Top 15 list.
“To be named top 15, that is crazy. I never expected that,” she said.
“I just have to give props to my coaches, they really made me the player who I am.”
The Lightning won bronze at the B.C. 2A senior girls championships, after winning three of four games. Mallette was named a second team all-star.
Tavia Rowell, is just in Grade 10, and was also named an honourable mention at the B.C. AAA championships, helping the Walnut Grove Gators finish seventh.
“There are so many good players, it is an honour being recognized as one of the top 15 players in the province,” she said.
“(And) being selected an honourable mention all-star was a great way to cap off the season.”
Gary Ahuja Langley Times photos
Langley Christian’s Katelyn Mallette (above left, with ball) and Walnut Grove Gators’ Tavia Rowell (#11) were both named among the top 15 senior girls basketball players in the province last week.