Five years ago, pictures were taken and the players smiled back at the lens.
Five years later, many of those players are now smiling at the camera lens as they prepare to graduate from high school.
That was fast.
Yes, many of the original members of the Junior V-Reds program, offered through the University of New Brunswick women's basketball team, are preparing to graduate from high school this summer. Some of them may go on to play in the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) or Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association, some of them are preparing to begin their careers in their chosen educational fields.
The experience of playing with the Junior V-Reds is one they won't forget anytime soon.
"We started out with a vision and a certain expectation of what we wanted to offer in a youth program and almost five years later, we've gathered a lot of great stories," said Jeff Speedy, the head coach of the UNB Varsity Reds and general manager of the Junior V-Reds Program. "Players have had the chance to travel, play with others who may have been rivals in youth leagues and now are friends because of their Junior V-Reds experience. And we helped make them better basketball players along the way."
This spring and summer, the Junior V-Reds will offer teams at the under-11, under-12, under-13 and under-14 divisions.
UNB basketball alumni Laura Fowler and Allie Chalke will coach the under-11 squad, Linda Speedy and former V-Red and present UNB assistant coach Leah Bowers have the under-12s and Moe Perez and present day UNB player Rachel Cleary have the under-13s. Coach Speedy and current UNB players Awo Farah and Colleen Daly are in charge of the u-14 crew.
The teams play a series of exhibition games, travel to major tournaments in Massachusetts and Halifax and host their popular UNB School's Out Shootout in June.
None of the funds raised through the program go back into UNB women's basketball program. The program is designed to increase awareness of the Varsity Reds while helping mold younger players in the region. Junior V-Reds teams from the past have included players from Saint John through to Woodstock. Teams practice two to three times a week and wear the red, black and white for approximately a 16 games season.
Looking back over almost half a decade, Speedy points to players such as Bailey Anderson, Sarah Ripley and Alison Keane of Leo Hayes High Lions, Sarah McGeachy and Emma Blizzard of Fredericton High Black Kats and Jayme Hunt and Maddy McHatten of the Woodstock High Thunder, all former Junior V-Reds, all New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association stalwarts and many former New Brunswick Canada Summer Games players. All are graduating this summer.
"We hope every one of those players and all of their teammates and the next wave of Junior V-Reds players go on to rewarding basketball careers, academic studies and flourish as future community leaders," Speedy said. "We are basketball teams, but there is a commitment to creating a program and creating good habits as a player. We see them at our games throughout the year and we get a chance to watch them on the court for their mini or bantam or high school teams. It's a rewarding feeling to see so many of them excelling."