Ayden Kristmanson has been part of one of the most, if not the most, successful eras in Whistler Secondary School hoops history.
But as a Grade 12 student and in the midst of her final season at the school, Kristmanson is making preparations for her post-secondary career, announcing on Jan. 7 that she had committed to Toronto's Ryerson Rams beginning with the 2019-20 season.
Kristmanson said she had a few scholarship offers, including from the University of Toronto and St. Francis Xavier, but the opportunity to join a solid Rams squad (which boasts a 12-2 record so far this season) combined with one of the country's best architecture programs led her to Ryerson.
"I was really keen on going elsewhere. I wanted to get out of B.C. I was super keen on going somewhere different than Whistler," she said. "Ryerson has always been one of my top options. The school is brand new and it's just different from every other school I've been to."
Also factoring into her decision was the chance to go to a different type of environment than Whistler, which Toronto will certainly provide.
"It's kind of hard to go from a small town to a small town," she reasoned. "When I was trying to choose between schools, I was trying to find the balance of seeing something new while feeling like it was the best place for me.
"It's going to be kind of a shellshock at first. I've never been in the extremely cold weather that they get there."
Being a rookie on a veteran team, Kristmanson won't jump right in to being a major contributor, but she's comfortable easing into university life and getting the chance to learn from a group of role models.
"In that first year, I probably won't be playing as much as I would if all the kids on the team are in their first and second years," she said. "It's definitely a balance of positioning. The people who have been there for longer are obviously going to play more. They're stronger. They have more experience."
From a skills perspective, Kristmanson will look to tighten up her defence before she reports to Ryerson as if she can't keep opponents from scoring, she won't be granted much opportunity to score herself.
"If you can't play D, you can't play offence. You can't even be on the floor," she said. "I'm a shooter, so I'm always working on my shot. That's one thing that I definitely think I can bring to Ryerson is being a shooting guard for them."
As a self-described late bloomer, Kristmanson is also looking to bulk up, as at the university level, she'll be competing against women, not girls.
Ryerson head coach Carly Clarke said she first connected with Kristmanson last summer and brought her to Toronto to have a look.
"I was able to watch some film and see her work out in person. Just getting to know her and understand her work ethic, her passion and determination to grow as a player was a big factor and that made her a great fit for us," she said. "We have strong interior play and strong guard play now, too. She's going to be a great asset to our perimeter play and she's going to challenge our veteran players in practice and push them to get better."
Kristmanson started playing in elementary school with a group of girls that make up the current Storm squad. She described the team as "best friends" that ramped up their interest in high school, making the provincials in three out of her four years to this point.
"It's one of the best experiences ever," she said, adding that she doesn't expect to be the last Storm member to commit to a university before the season is through. "We had never been top 10 at 'AA' provincials, ever. We've accomplished some pretty great things."
Richman commits to Langara
Staying closer to home, Pemberton Secondary School's (PSS) Alyssa Richman has committed to playing at Vancouver's Langara College for the upcoming season.
The point guard had been looking at a few options but after getting the chance to train with the Falcons over the holiday break, the comfort she felt helped seal her decision.
"I had a lot of fun and the coach was great, so I decided to go play there," she said.
While Richman said her conversations with the coaching staff haven't turned to a specific role yet, she said she'd be given the chance to hit the floor.
"(Coach Curtis Nelson) did say that he plays all of his players, so just because I'm in my first year it doesn't mean that I would be less of a part of a team than the other girls," she said.
As for the current season, PSS has had just two tournaments this year, though the Red Devils took a third-place finish in Barriere this past weekend. Richman added that the squad is looking to qualify for March's provincial tournament once again this season.The original version of this story incorrectly stated the name of Langara's coach. Pique regrets the error.