Like most young adults, Stratford native Taylor Caverley-Grasby is certainly allowed to change her mind, especially when facing the tough decisions that come at that age.
When it comes to her choice of post-secondary studies, Cambrian College women’s basketball head coach Nambogga Sewali and staff are more than a little thrilled with the 19 year-old freshman’s last minute change of heart.
“I was planning on going to St Clair (in Windsor),” noted Caverley-Grasby. “But two to three weeks before the start of school, I started thinking that I wanted to go far away and be really independent. In grade 10, we played a high school tournament in Sudbury, so I changed my mind and decided to go here.”
While some may have arrived with more fanfare, the addition of the first-year Nursing student has had an immediate impact, with Caverley-Grasby hitting double digits in six of the team’s eight games to date. Perhaps this should not come as a surprise, given the background of the young woman who is the middle child in a very athletic family.
“I’ve always played sports,” she said. “Boys hardball and girls softball were my primary sports. My family is all about baseball. My grandpa was the president of Stratford baseball for forty years, so I’ve always grown up with baseball. And I have an older brother, so I was used to being the bat girl for his teams.”
Though basketball started to emerge as a sport of interest just before her high school days, Caverley-Grasby really benefitted from a near ideal introduction to the rep game, which subsequently fuelled her passion for the hardcourt game.
“We tried to have a club team in Stratford, but we’re a pretty small community, and we would never have enough players to form a team,” she said. “Finally, we ended up having a season in grade seven or eight, and we had a really good coach.”
“That’s why I probably fell in love with it, just having that really good experience with that coach and the players. Any time we had practices or would go to a tournament, I would be super excited about going.”
Between her five years that she would spend as a member of the St Michael’s Warriors high school team, a span which included three trips to OFSAA, as well as the club experience with both the Stratford Revolution and London Ramblers, Caverley-Grasby would develop her game substantially.
While the thought of playing post-secondary basketball had certainly crossed her mind, it was not cast in stone, whether at St Clair, or at Cambrian. “I wasn’t really sure if I was going to play basketball when I came here, kind of thinking I would just focus on schooling,” she said.
“But when I showed up, I thought I would give it a try and go out for tryouts. Basically, I decided the week of moving here.” If ever there was a consummate “walk on” athlete, it was Caverley-Grasby. She arrived in Sudbury knowing no one from the team, and knowing no one from back home who was even up in this area.
It was exactly what she was looking for, a decision that garnered the difficult but key support of her mother. “She found it hard with me being so far away, because we’re like best friends, but she knows that it’s for my own good, and I’m here for the right reasons, so she’s happy about that.”
And there is also that small matter of the Golden Shield being moved to the OCAA West a few years back. “Every game we’ve had so far, on the road, my parents have been there,” said Caverley-Grasby.
Yet even for a person who is outgoing and positive, the sight of team tryouts with less attendees than her club teams had back home was cause for reflection. “Before coming here, I really didn’t know anything at all about the team,” she admitted.
“I just kind of showed up, thinking that I’ll do my best and see where it takes me from there. I was a little skeptical what the atmosphere would be like, with just eight girls, but we all work hard and push each other in practices, so I like it, even though we don’t have the biggest team out there.”
It would take only a game or two before Caverley-Grasby realized that she would need to be an integral part of the 2016-2017 Cambrian team, if the Golden Shield are to narrow the gap on the competition in the OCAA.
“I came in thinking I might score two points per game, maybe, but after playing, I realized I had to attack, drive, shoot,” she said. “I feel I have a role on this team.”
No need to convince coach Sewali. "You could see a spark that she understood the game, that she knew was she was doing," said Sewali. "Kids today are so schooled in the game, so robotic, whereas she just knew how to read and react. You could see that she's observing the court, reading everybody."
"And then there's her attitude," added Sewali. "The girls I have this year all have amazing attitudes. Taylor is just fun to be around, has a great energy about her, brings out a great energy, and that gets transmitted through to everybody else."