Taryn Wicijowski Nominated for Prestigious Award
Taryn Wicijowski -Team Sask Spotlight Of July
Taryn Wicijowski has finished a great and final season at Utah, playing for the Utes Women’s Basketball Team. Wicijowski, a standout player is one familiar to the provincial team scene. Taryn, born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan attended Dr. Martin Leboldus High School before averaging 8.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game as team captain for the Canada Junior National Team at the FIBA World U19 Championship in 2009, as Canada finished fourth at the championships. Taryn led all players with 16 rebounds against the USA at the U19 Championship and also played in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship in 2008, leading the team to a second-place finish While at Leboldus, Taryn led the team to two championships in the SHSAA Provincial Hoopla Finals (2006 and 2007), along with a second-place finish in 2008, and was also a standout hockey player for the Regina Rebels.
As Taryn now moves onto a pro career in Italy, she now has a chance to be awarded something very special. Taryn has been nominated for NCAA Women’s Athlete of the Year : http://www.utahutes.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/061915aaa.html
We had a chance to catch up with Taryn, and ask her some questions in relation to hoops and Team Sask!
BSI: Give us some background as to how you started playing basketball, and then talk about what led you both to want to play team sask?
TW: I started playing basketball in RCBA when I was 5. I have basically been around basketball since I was born, as my mom played and coached high school girls basketball (including winning city and provincial titles with Sheldon Wiliams in 1992). I was involved in a lot of activities as a kid, but as a grew up basketball and hockey became my two favorite sports. In grade ten, I decided to just focus on basketball.
I wanted to play Team Sask because I wanted to play with and against the absolute best players I possibly could. I have always been extremely competitive, and so proving myself against both the best players in my province and my country, was a big goal for me.
BSI: What are some favorite experiences and memories from your sask experience? – What did it mean to represent the province? What does it mean to be at UTAH?
TW: Being a part of Team Sask was the first major milestone in my basketball career. I think it’s also some of the most fun I’ve had as a basketball player – spending the summer with your teammates, only having to worry about basketball, and getting to improve your game. Some of my best friends are girls I was lucky to play Team Sask with. It was an experience that has greatly affected how my basketball career has gone. It was such a great honor to represent my province. Without Team Sask, I don’t know that I would have developed into the player I am today.
Utah is a school of proud tradition. We are one of the greatest programs in NCAA history, winning over 70% of our games. However, we always felt like we were under appreciated as a program, so we were proud but had a big chip on our shoulders. It is a program that is more like a family than a team. No matter what, we look after each other.
BSI: In what ways was playing team sask beneficial to your playing career following highschool/ during highschool as well?
TW: Team Sask was the first time I was really pushed to be better than I was. It was such a competitive environment; every single practice and every single game were tough. Team Sask is the reason I was ready to play high school basketball come grade nine, and it gave me the extra skill development in the summers that allowed me to be a dominant player in high school basketball. Eventually, all the hard work I put in with provincial team in the summers led to me being invited to Canada\’s National Elite Development Academy (NEDA) in Hamilton, Ontario for my grade 12 season, I was recruited to Utah via a tournament I attended with Team Sask, and I was recognized to be part of the Junior National team through my provincial team participation.
BSI: Statistically it would appear that 2014/2015 was one of your best seasons yet, why do you think that was?
TW: Although statistically 2014/2015 was my best season, I would not necessarily say it was my best season at Utah. I was coming off of ACL surgery so I was not as strong or in shape as I would have liked to be. I think my statistics are more of a reflection of how young my team was; we were very inexperienced so I had to take on more of the load. I didn’t shoot the ball as well as I would have liked, and this could probably be attributed a little to the ACL surgery, and a little to defenses being more focused on me.
BSI: Since playing for team sask, talk about what your favorite basketball memories have been, where and why? etc.
TW: Since playing for Team Sask, I have two favorite basketball memories. One, is being captain of the U19 Junior National team who finished fourth in the world in 2009. Not only did I get to represent my country, but I was the team’s captain: it was an incredible honor. We finished fourth, which is the best any Canadian women’s team has done. My second favorite memory is playing in the 2013 WNIT national championship tournament with Utah. We played six games, all over the country, and ended up playing in the title game. Although we lost in the final, we had an incredible run, playing against huge crowds and teams we don’t normally get to play.
BSI: What do you see yourself doing following your NCCA run? Coaching? What does the future hold?!
TW: Now that I am finished in the NCAA, I am playing basketball professionally. I have already signed a contract for next season, playing in Italy’s top league. I will be playing for Azzura Orvieto. I hope to play professionally for at least a few more years and to play for the national team. Once I am done playing, I’m planning on going to medical school and becoming a doctor, possibly an orthopedic surgeon.
BSI: Maybe you could talk about the battles of overcoming surgery, etc. As well as what it takes to be such a great student athlete?
TW: I tore both of my ACLs while I was at Utah, one at the beginning of the 2010-2011 season and the other in the summer of 2013, the summer before what would have been my senior season. Both of these injuries were devastating to me, but they also taught me a lot about myself. I became much more mentally tough, and truly learned how to push myself. Most important, I learned how much I love the game of basketball. After either injury, I could have just given up on basketball, and on my dreams of playing professionally. That never seemed like an option to me though. I realized how much I love this game, how much passion I have for it, and how hard I was willing to work to get it back.
Being a great student-athlete is very difficult. At Utah, we had classes in the morning, and practice from 12-4. We travelled every second week during the season for games, leaving either Wednesday or Thursday and getting back on the Sunday or Monday. This meant a lot of class missed and difficulty scheduling the classes you need. I was very fortunate to have a coach who supported my long-term goal of becoming a doctor. When I was being recruited by other NCAA schools, some coaches told me it just wouldn’t be possible to take pre-med classes while being an athlete. My coach, on the other hand, worked with me to make sure I would graduate on time with all the classes I needed. To be a good student-athlete you need great time management skills, determination to do well, be willing to sacrifice, and being a bit of an independent learner also helps. Missing as much class as I did, sometimes you need to be able to teach yourself the material. Above all, you need a support system who will help you both on the court and off, and I was lucky to have that.