UBC Thunderbirds

by Lachlan Kerr

January 9, 2014, VANCOUVER (ISN – The UBC Thunderbirds restart the second half of their season this weekend by welcoming two of the conference’s top women’s basketball teams.

Alberta and Saskatchewan, ranked third and fourth in the country respectively, both undertake trips to Vancouver and Victoria to start the winter semester and this weekend will have a large bearing on both the Prairie and Pacific divisions going forward. Victoria and UBC both sit top of the Pacific, along with Fraser Valley, with records of 7-3, while Saskatchewan sit atop the Prairie Division with Alberta one game back in a tie for second place.

Both games at War Memorial Gym will be broadcast live on CiTR 101.9 FM as well as on CanadaWest.tv.

Friday, Jan. 10
6 p.m. – No. 3 Alberta at UBC

Saturday, Jan. 11 
5 p.m. – No. 4 Saskatchewan at UBC   


Last weekend, UBC travelled to California to take on the Westmont College Warriors and returned home with an impressive 68-56 win over the defending NAIA champions. Kris Young led the way with 20 points and six rebounds, both team highs, and will lead the team out for their first match of 2014.

Young is the seventh-leading scorer in the Canada West, with an average of 16 points a game. Close behind her in ninth is forward Harleen Sidhu. The newcomer to UBC is scoring 15.4 points per appearance, as well as 9.8 rebounds, which puts the Surrey, B.C. native in fourth in the Canada West in rebounding. Young is 18th with 6.3 boards a game.  

The Alberta Pandas are in town Friday and will be surely looking to assert themselves and their No. 3 ranking on the Thunderbirds. They run a very balanced offence that looks to share the ball and create shots for each other, they have no dominant scorer but six players who average between 6.7 and 9.3 points. To complement this offence, the Pandas possess one of the conference’s best defences; they limit opponents to scoring on just 30.2 per cent of all shot attempts and hold the opposing team to an average of 52.7 points per game. Both figures are good enough for second in Canada West. In their last meeting they knocked UBC out of the playoffs here in Vancouver with two wins in a best-of-three quarter-final matchup.  

UBC and Alberta are very familiar with each other, having faced off 15 times in non-conference, regular season and playoff action since the beginning of the 2009-10 season. The teams have met in the Canada West Quarter-finals the last four years.  

Alberta holds a slight 8-7 advantage in the last 15 meetings. In eight of those games, the winning margin was six points or less.  

Saskatchewan will arrive in Vancouver having faced Victoria the night before and the Huskies come holding the conference’s best record and the most efficient offence in the league. They have scored over 80 points five times and average a league-high 76.2 points per game, as well as field goal percentage of 46.1 per cent, also a conference-leading statistic. Their figurehead is Dalyce Emmerson who averages a double-double and sits third in the league in scoring with 20.5 points a game. She also sits third in the league in rebounding with an average of 10.3 boards a game. The last time the Thunderbirds met the Huskies, they lost in Saskatoon by a score of 72-62 in November 2012.

The UBC women’s basketball program will present the Ruth Wilson Memorial Award at the conclusion of Saturday’s game. Every year, a Thunderbirds women’s basketball player is honoured with the scholarship, established in memory and in honour of Wilson, an original inductee to the UBC Sports Hall of Fame in 1993 for her accomplishments as a student-athlete and coach at the Point Grey school.

She was a top scorer for UBC basketball in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Wilson led the Blue and Gold to the local Senior ‘B’ league title and an appearance in the provincial final in 1941, scoring 11 points in the final quarter of a 34-25 loss.

After graduation, she won four consecutive Canadian Championships (1943-1946) with the Vancouver Hedlunds.

As a coach, Wilson was successful at every level. She became Canada’s first national team coach and guided the squad to a bronze medal at the 1967 Pan American Games in Winnipeg.

She led the Vancouver Eilers to two national titles (1949 and 1950) and the Vancouver Buzz Bombs to the championship in 1973.

Wilson coached the UBC varsity women’s basketball team for 11 seasons, winning a BC Championship in 1943 and a Western Canadian University title in 1968.

She was also the coach of the John Oliver Jokers girls’ basketball team that won the first-ever BC high school provincial tournament in 1948.

A multi-talented athlete, Wilson also excelled in softball, participating in two Women’s World Series and coaching in a third. As a golfer, she represented BC eight times at the Canadian Ladies Inter-Provincial tournament and in 1954, she represented Canada in an exhibition series against the British Curtis Cup team. She was also a competitive tennis player, taking home three Vancouver titles in the 1930s.

For all her accomplishments, Wilson was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 1966.

– with files from the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Fred Hume, UBC Thunderbirds historian