Hoops star Giannattasio caps career with Canada West All-Star nod

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Amira Giannattasio

VICTORIA – Victoria basketball fans have become accustomed to hearing the name “Amira” broadcasted loudly over the speakers in CARSA for four years and McKinnon for one. It has been five seasons for graduating basketball star Amira Giannattasio and what a career it has been. The ace three-pointer was named a Canada West Second Team All-Star on Feb. 21 to put the feather in her outstanding career cap. The social sciences major came to Victoria at the start of the 2014-15 season and her impact was immediate.

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“It’s hard to put into words what Amira has meant to us,” said Dani Sinclair, head coach of the Vikes women’s basketball team. “She is part of my first full class of recruits and has had such an amazing career on the court. With that said, it’s the relationship off the court that is the most meaningful to me, with her and her whole family.”

Amira Giannattasio named Canada West Second Team All-Star
Amira Giannattasio named Canada West Second Team All-Star

Following in the footsteps of former St. Mary’s Catholic school team mate Jenna Bugiardini, the two Hamilton, Ont. natives were a pivotal offensive force for the Vikes team. It was coach Dani Sinclair‘s second full term as head coach and with Bugiardini and Giannattasio paired alongside the talents of then seniors Jessica Renfrew and Cassandra Goodis the Vikes went all the way to the Canada West quarter-finals, their first appearance at the conference Final 4 since 2007.

“Competitiveness, toughness, skill, experience, basketball IQ,” Sinclair listed as the attributes she has seen come from Hamilton’s now former Vikes Bugiardini and Giannattasio as well 2019-20 recruit Peyton Connolly. “It’s a huge adjustment for players to move from high school to university basketball but Jenna and Amira were ready and experienced from day one. They both started their whole careers but still competed in practice every day like they had to earn their spot.  They both became stars for us but they also understood how to compliment others. This allowed them to play big minutes right away.”

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Giannattasio was named the 2014-15 UVic Female Rookie of the Year, Canada West Rookie of the Year and named to the U SPORTS All-Rookie team after continuously being a Vikes top scorer. As a first year Giannattasio contributed 36 three pointers in 84 attempts (42.9 per cent) and averaged 12 points per game.

“She is a pure scorer and was from day one,” stated Sinclair. “She had to adapt every year in terms of the people around her but what never wavered was her ability to put the ball in the basket. She embraced that role and as the years progressed she also learned how to make the people around her better. Her development as a youth in the Hamilton, Transway and St. Mary’s systems clearly plays a role but she also has her own style. Amira is as cool as they come and her game reflects that. She is so smooth and it appears to be effortless for her to put up 44 points.”

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In the Vikes’ final regular season game ever to be played in the storied McKinnon gymnasium, Giannattasio registered 31 points against Trinity Western, while she is most remembered for her buzzer-beating jumper against Lethbridge that was the start of an eight-game win streak into the playoffs.

The Vikes qualified for the Canada West quarter-finals with Giannattasio and Bugiardini for the next two seasons and had a memorable 2016-17 season when the U SPORTS Final 8 National Championship was hosted in CARSA.

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“She hates to lose more than anyone I’ve ever coached and she approached every day like it was her last opportunity to play,” highlighted Sinclair of Giannattasio’s unwavering level of compete. “She played through injuries her entire career but she refused to ever sit out of practice.  We would have to force her to sub out during practice because she would treat walk-through sessions the same way as she would a game.”

In Giannattasio’s fourth season the Vikes lost out to the Calgary Dinos in the Canada West Quarter-finals and a look back on the season showed a healthy competition between two fourth years that really drove the team’s success offensively. Giannattasio and Kristy Gallagher were lethal offensively trading double-digit scoring nights with Giannattasio hitting a season-high 36 points in the second regular season game of 2017-18.

“Amira is the kind of teammate who challenges everyone to get better at every practice,” added Vikes team mate Gallagher, who played all five season with Giannattasio. “She leads by example and competed her hardest every opportunity she got in her career. It has been an honour to play with someone who achieved so much individually but also allowed the team to grow. Amira doesn’t just make a difference in clutch situations, she’s the type of person who makes every practice better by giving herself up for the team.”

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In her fifth and final season, Gianattasio had to go it alone after injuries took away Gallagher for what would have been the pair’s fifth and final season together. Seeing only opportunity, Gianattasio rose to the challenge to lead a young Vikes squad all season. Averaging 20.1 points per game, Giannattasio was the second highest in average scoring in the Canada West, while her three-point percentage was an average 37.1 after making 39 of 105 attempts. Giannattasio started all 20 regular season games and all three playoff games averaging 31.8 minutes per game and often contributed 40 minutes in the team’s tougher games.

“Amira has been one of my biggest role models on and off the court,” said team mate Marissa Dheensaw. “From how she takes people under her wing as players and friends, to how she pushes through injuries just to help the team, Amira puts her whole heart out on the court every time she plays. I think that’s something everyone admires and appreciates about her.”
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“There are so many memories, on and off the court,” said Sinclair trying to pick out the highlight of Giannattasio. “Going 7-for-7 from three-point range in her first regular season game, hitting a huge game-winning buzzer beater in his first year, always having huge games against UBC including 44 points this year in one game against them), her music, her calm and cool attitude, her family, her consistency and the list goes on.”

Peaking at the Canada West record books, Giannattasio’s name is highlighted at the top of several lists. For top scoring Giannattasio had two 44-point performances that both sit tied for fourth for all-time highest scoring in a game in the Canada West. The first of those performances came in an exciting triple-overtime game against the UBC Thunderbirds.  Calgary’s Meagan Koch has the record with 49 points scored against Saskatchewan in 1996. Koch and Simon Fraser’s Teresa Kleindienst also scored 45 points in back in 1995 and 2002, respectively.

Continuing down the conference records lists Giannattasio is tied for sixth for all-time field goal attempts (31) in a game, while her most notable records fall in the career sections. Giannattasio totals 1,539 career points in regular season and she now sits 13th overall in the Canada West and this season she climbed to third overall in Vikes history. Her last regular season game was the 44-point performance that saw her jump past UVic Sports Hall of Famer Luanne Krawetz (Hebb) whose record of 1,530 was set from 1977-82. Ahead of Giannattasio in the Vikes record book sits just Lisa Koop (1,660) and Carol Turney-Loos (1,646).

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“I’m the most grateful for all of my teammates over the years,” highlighted Giannattasio after her final regular season game in Victoria. “They have kept me going and they got me all the looks and helped me out to get the plays. Even for my record they were just saying ‘get her the ball, get her the ball.’ I am really grateful for them and I am so glad I have got to play under Dani for five years.”

Though Amira’s name will no longer echo through the stands in the CARSA Performance Gym, there does exist a permanent memory of the senior’s storied career and a bit of motivation for future Vikes. An embracing moment between Goodis and Giannattasio after that buzzer-beating jumper Giannattisio hit in her first season is photographed and forever woven in to the décor of the CARSA walls, as the all-star’s photo joins storied Vikes around the gym including Hebb, Tracie Sibbald, Debbie Yeboah, Kayla Dykstra and Kathy Shields.

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“Amira is unique and special as a player and person,” added Sinclair. “She can come across as intimidating at times but she is one of the most loving and sweet people I know. We will miss her greatly but she will remain a part of us forever.”

What was once an exciting rookie to watch with an unknown future ahead of her quickly sped by to become a remarkable career that is now adding to a storied Vikes basketball tradition on the Ring Road campus.
2018-19 CANADA WEST ALL-STARS

FIRST ALL-STAR TEAM

POSITION / NAME / UNIVERSITY / YEAR / HOMETOWN
G / Sabine Dukate / Saskatchewan / 4 / Ventspiils, Latvia
F / Keylyn Filewich / UBC / 3 / Winnipeg, Man.
G / Kyanna Giles / Regina / 3 / Winnipeg, Man.
F / Faith Hezekiah / Winnipeg / 4 / East St. Paul, Man.
F / Vasiliki Louka / UNBC / 5 / Athens, Greece

SECOND ALL-STAR TEAM
G / Kacie Bosch / Lethbridge / 4 / Lethbridge, Alta.
G / Amira Giannattasio / Victoria / 5 / Hamilton, Ont.
G / Emma Kary / Alberta / 3 / Calgary, Alta.
F / Summer Masikewich / Saskatchewan / Calgary, Alta.
G & F / Erin McIntosh / Calgary / 4 / Calgary, Alta.

THIRD ALL-STAR TEAM
G / Jessie Brown / Trinity Western / 5 / Langley, B.C.
F / Taylor Claggett / Fraser Valley / 4 / Mission, B.C.
F / Maria Mongomo / UNBC / 4 / Las Palmas, Spain
G / Maddison Penn / UBC / Avoca Beach, Australia
G / Taylor Randall / Manitoba / 3 / Dundas, Ont.

ALL-ROOKIE TEAM
G / Hailey Counsell / UBC / Port Moody, B.C.
F / Ashley De Sousa Martins / Saskatchewan / Saskatoon, Sask.
F / Nicole Fransson / Trinity Western / Edmonton, Alta.
G / Maddison Hooper / Mount Royal / Perth, Australia
G / Abby Zawada / Fraser Valley / Richmond, B.C.

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