(FREDERICTON, NB) Eva Tumwine has come full circle.
The one-time Junior Varsity Reds player has returned to the program as a coach.
Tumwine is the first Junior VRed to become a Varsity Red.
The former Fredericton High School star has just completed her first season with the Varsity Reds, and is spending time this spring working with her old program.
“It’s interesting to see the level of competition, and see that I was once here and that I’m now coaching,” said Tumwine, following one of many Junior Varsity Reds tryouts held this week.
“Hopefully, these players get to where I am and possibly further.”
Tumwine is serving as an assistant coach with the Junior Varsity Reds U-12 team.
Varsity Reds head coach Jeff Speedy is leading the U-12 team. Tumwine may be the first player to participate in both programs, but Speedy hopes she isn’t the last.
“It’s very rewarding to have one of them in the fold and it’d be really cool to have four or five at some point and knowing that we played a part in them reaching that dream and reaching that goal.”
The Junior Varsity Reds program is open to girls in Grades 5,6,7 and 8.
The program, now in its seventh year, runs from April to July.
“The idea behind the program was to enhance basketball in the Fredericton area at a time of year when there wasn’t a lot going on,” says Speedy.
A number of Junior VReds have gone on to star at the high school level, others in Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association ranks.
But only two have graduated to Canadian Interuniversity Sport teams.
“It was a dream, probably more of a dream than what I thought could be reality,” said Tumwine.
“It gave me a head start. Seeing some of the Varsity Reds that were on the team then, and they helped out with the team… that meant something to me.”
Tumwine didn’t start playing basketball until she’d reached Grade 5. She says the Junior Varsity Reds was one of the first competitive teams she ever played on.
Speedy remembers the younger Tumwine as talkative, but talented.
“She could always really shoot it,” said Speedy. “She hasn’t grown a lot, height-wise, since then, so she was kind of towering over people at that age. But even at that age, she wasn’t concerned about standing back to the basket and being a beast in the low post. She wanted to learn how to handle the ball, she wanted to learn how to shoot the ball. She understood at that age that there was more to the game than being one dimensional.”
Tumwine is hopeful some of the kids she’s coaching this year see qualities in her that she saw in Varsity Reds all those years ago.
“Knowing that hard work, when you’re young, can lead to, I wouldn’t say success, not yet anyway, but dreams can come true.”
Speedy says the junior program wasn’t designed to become a feeder system to the university team. He says early participants only played one or two seasons.
“I’m anxious for that first four-year Junior VRed kid, to see what happens with them, and we’re starting to get to that point now. Let’s see if we have eight out of ten of those kids play CCAA and CIS basketball. That would be pretty cool.”
Speedy says, most importantly, the Junior Varsity Reds program gives girls an opportunity to develop as players.
“I want to see them all starting for FHS and Leo Hayes,” said Speedy. “I want to see them all playing when they’re in Grade 11 and 12. Too many girls stop playing this sport, or whatever sport, when they get into high school.”
As for Tumwine, she’s hoping her new experience with the junior program helps her continued development.
“I guess I still am a Junior VRed.”