BY MIKE FIELDS
Louise Forsyth can expect a warm homecoming when she and her Gonzaga basketball teammates play in the TCL Vancouver Showcase.
Louise’s mom will see to that.
Linda Forsyth said she “may have to spend a paycheck” to buy enough tickets to take care of all the family and friends who want to watch her daughter take the court for Gonzaga in bd Global’s power-packed Vancouver Showcase Nov. 22-24.
“Oh yes, we’ll have a big contingent there,” Linda Forsyth said.
The first-year event will feature three top 10 teams: No. 1 and reigning NCAA champion Notre Dame, No. 8 Oregon State, and No. 10 South Carolina, the 2017 national titlist.
Three Naismith Basketball Hall of Famers will be stalking the sidelines: Notre Dame Coach Muffet McGraw; Rutgers Coach Vivian Stringer (who’s closing in on 1,000 victories), and South Carolina Coach Dawn Staley (who was inducted for her accomplishments as a player).
But local fans’ hearts will be with Gonzaga because of Forsyth, who was a star high school athlete in nearby Langley, British Columbia.
Forsyth was a multi-sport standout at Brookswood Secondary. She was a first-team province all-star in cross country, and in track (long jump, triple jump and discus). She also played volleyball.
But basketball was where she excelled. She helped Brookswood to three state titles and was British Columbia’s Player of the Year as a senior. She also played for Canada’s women’s national team that won an FIBA championship.
Forsyth, who was rated a four-star recruit, chose Gonzaga, only six hours away in Spokane, WA , over a host of Division I suitors.
A 6-foot shooting guard, Forsyth didn’t get much playing time as a freshman on a veteran Gonzaga team that went 27-6, won the West Coast Conference and qualified for the NCAA Tournament.
But Lady Zags Coach Lisa Fortier expects Forsyth to develop into an impact player, and not just because of her shooting skills.
“A lot of people will get in the gym and shoot or do their position work, and do it one pace,” Fortier said. “But once you get into a game situation and you’re naturally sped up, you can’t make the correct passes or reads, or you can’t make shots, because you’re going so much faster.
“That’s not something Louise struggles with at all because she practices full-speed all the time. That’s what we love about her. She’s as well-conditioned an athlete as we’ve ever had.
“She has the mental toughness to push through the tired. That ultimately will help her over the next three years to develop into a really, really good player.”
Forsyth, who’s studying pre-med, is excited about Gonzaga’s upcoming trip to Vancouver. She’s trying to rustle up a few extra tickets from teammates to help out her mom.
“It will be amazing to get to play in front of friends and family,” she said. “When I decided to attend (Gonzaga), I never thought I would have the chance to play (in Vancouver) again.”
Forsyth also sees the TCL Vancouver Showcase as a way to grow the sport in Canada.
“I think it will really open eyes as to the level of play, intensity, athleticism and competitiveness of women’s basketball,” she said. “This tournament will inspire so many young players in Vancouver to reach towards the goal of playing at a high level.”
Gonzaga, led by veterans Zykera Rice, Chandler Smith and Laura Stockton, will face Notre Dame in the opening game of the Vancouver Showcase.
Fortier said she’s flattered that Gonzaga was invited to such a high-profile event and that her team is looking forward to the challenge.
“We’re telling everybody this is the best tournament in the country,” she said. “It’s a great experience whether you win or lose. We’re looking forward to competing against the best.”
Notre Dame Coach Muffet MGraw echoed Fortier’s take on the strength of the Vancouver Showcase, which also includes Drake, East Tennessee State, Rutgers and Western Kentucky.
“I don’t think there’s any other place in the country where you’re going to see this kind of talent,” she said. “This is a mini-NCAA Tournament. It’s going to be great basketball.”
All eight teams won at least 20 games last season, and all but ETSU and Rutgers qualified for the NCAA Tournament. Oregon State and South Carolina made it to the Elite Eight, and Notre Dame won its second national title.
That the Fighting Irish even reached the Final Four was quite an achievement, considering their injury-depleted roster.
How the Fighting Irish won the championship was simply astounding, considering they needed a pair of buzzer-beating shots from Arike Ogunbowale to knock off previously undefeated Connecticut in the semifinals and Mississippi State in the finals.
McGraw said Ogunbowale’s game-winning heroics “were something that you are never going to see at a sporting event, from the NBA down to any level. That was just unprecedented to see someone make two incredible shots.
“And it was certainly a test of our resilience to play with seven scholarship players. To get to the Final Four with that small of a team is kind of remarkable.”
Notre Dame returns a lot of talent, including Ogunbowale, Jackie Young and Jessica Turner, but McGraw expects her team to be tested in Vancouver.
“We do like to play a really tough schedule,” she said. “We like to challenge ourselves and play outside the conference and see what the best teams look like because you don’t want to wait until you get to the NCAA Tournament to see them.”
TCL Vancouver Showcase Women’s First-Round Schedule
November 22, 2018
- Notre Dame vs. Gonzaga, noon
- Drake vs. Rutgers, 2:30 p.m.
- South Carolina vs. East Tennessee State, 6 p.m.
- Oregon State vs. Western Kentucky, 8:30 p.m.