By RAGNAR HAAGEN, Herald-Tribune staff
April 4th, 2011
It doesn't look like the GPRC Lady Wolves are going to miss a beat next season. They'll be trading one great player for another.
Wolves basketball squad head coach Dave Waknuk has told the Daily Herald-Tribune he has received a verbal commitment from Kelly O'Hallahan, the star player for Peace Wapiti Academy.
"It's huge," exclaimed coach Waknuk. "Kelly has showed that she can definitely play at a high level, she did that when she joined Peace Wapiti in January. She was at the Alberta Shooting Stars provincial game last weekend and she won the MVP for the 3A all-star game.
"She's an impact player who is very smart, and comes from a strong program with great coaching. She has experience playing at a high level, so (we feel) she's someone that can come in and make an immediate impact for us next season."
The Wolves held their annual ID camp for high school players this past weekend, and Waknuk admitted O'Hallahan was one a priority player.
"She was definitely high on the list, and she fills a lot of voids with what we need," said Waknuk.
"We need scoring. Our two top scorers are moving on and she gives us a guard that can come in and do that. She's also strong on both sides of the court (offensively and defensively)."
With the graduation of Jaelle Buhler and the expected transfer of reigning CCAA Player of the Year Andria Carlyon, the Wolves will lose their top two scorers.
Waknuk hopes the signing of O'Hallahan will lessen some of that blow.
"From the start of training camp, I see her coming in and having the chance to compete for a starting spot," said Waknuk. "We still have to see how everything plays out, but I see her as a somebody who steps in and has an impact right away."
Having an immediate impact is exactly what O'Hallahan expects to do.
"Yeah, I hope so," she said. "I'm going to look to train this summer and just take my game to the next level.
"Whatever I can do, I'm up for it."
O'Hallahan has always seen herself as a shooting guard, but with the chance that she may be moving to the point, believes her ball-handling is something that will need work.
"I'm normally a shooting guard, but this year I've been put into a position to more take control of the game at point guard," said O'Hallahan.
"I normally concentrate on my shooting, but I definitely want to get my ball-handling up to the next standard so it can help out my game even more. (This past year) I've been put in every possible position ... so wherever I'm needed I can go. I consider myself pretty versatile."
O'Hallahan has played basketball most of her life. In fact, growing up in the tiny town of Ngatea, New Zealand, she started playing for her high school team before she was even in high school.
"I'm always over at the gym and was the only girl there, so I got most of my skill from playing with boys," said O'Hallahan.
"My game got better I guess, playing with more skilled players and I was in the New Zealand basketball academy over there, which is the top camp for girls aged 16-25."
In New Zealand, there is no basketball in university or college.
There are U17 and U19 teams that are feeders for the national program, but no constant basketball for anyone at her age level.
"I wasn't ready to give up ball after high school, so there was definitely a pull to come over here," noted O'Hallahan.
"I have family over here, and have vacationed here (in the past).
"I'm based in Grande Prairie, so (GPRC) was always one of my top choices. I had a couple of other camps lined up but as soon as I went to the Wolves ID camp, there was no doubt in my mind that was where I wanted to be next year.
"Looking back at last year, they were the best team and everyone from the coaching staff to the players were so welcoming and everything and I knew that's where I wanted to be."
From the sounds of it, the feelings are mutual.