Paige Crozon, 17, stares with intent as she trains with the Canadian under-19 women's basketball team. Submitted photo by Basketball Canada
--PRINCE ALBERT-- Humboldt's own Paige Crozon has made rapid steps during her brief basketball career and is prepped and ready for the Under-19 World Championships in Chile, her most immense challenge to date.
Crozon only turned 17 on July 5, and is the second youngest member of the under-19 women's national team.
"I am extremely proud, especially playing with girls that have come from big cities like Toronto and Vancouver," said the shooting forward from the hotel lobby in Brazil prior to departing for Puerto Montt, Chile.
Although young, Crozon played on Canada's under-17 team at last year, and is well aware of what it takes to make the international grade.
National team head coach Rich Chambers referred to Crozon's positive attitude and endless verve as essential components to a winning formula.
"The most important thing is that she is such a positive young woman," said Chambers, who is enjoying his fourth year as the team's coach. "She's great to have on the team."
Her glowing personality and positive demeanour, though invaluable, are not all Crozon brings to the court. She is a shooting forward that thrives and excels from beyond the arc.
"I get a lot of looks from the three-point line," said Crozon, who will let loose if space avails.
Attending the Humboldt Collegiate Institute, Crozon enters her Grade 11 year come fall.
Most competitors partaking in the world tournament are in their first year of university, a fact that inspires Crozon further. Learning from elder players at the national level has turned her into a player who exudes confidence. She feels her teammates have prepared her for the dogged tussle ahead when Canada takes to the court for their first game on July 21 versus China.
"I've learned so much from them (older teammates) already," said the six-foot-one forward. "They are so talented and so much more experienced.
"Day in and day out I'm learning something new. They are just a great group of girls to be able to play with."
Group A has been labelled the group of death, which sees Canada pitted against Italy, Egypt and China, all of whom lay claim to champion of their respective continents.
Chambers said Canada's team is somewhat inexperienced - with one 16-year-old and three 17-year-olds - and undersized, standing at an average height of six feet. But Chambers said the mental strength and ability of his team to get up and down the court quickly will hopefully nullify the opposition's experience and size advantage.
"We just have to play one game at a time," said Chambers. "You're never really ready. China has been to four tournaments (this season), Brazil has played 15 to 20 games, Italy has played about 50 games and we have played two.
"We are very mentally tough, I think as a team we have great chemistry."
Crozon dabbled in volleyball, hockey, track and swimming growing up, and her mother Leanne, wasn't able to surmise which sport her daughter would prioritize, but said her success was inevitable.
"She believes if you imagine something, it will come true," said Leanne. "She had posters of Basketball Canada, inspirational quotes on a whiteboard, messages from friends and I think all of that helps her believe it is possible.
"I was probably the one that was more concerned because you hate to see your kids disappointed."
But Leanne said her daughters' non-stop devotion to all aspects of life would ensure her prosperity.
In order to rub shoulders with the world's best, 44-year-old Leanne said the family had to make sacrifices, but cannot think of anything better than being a part of her daughters' breathtaking journey.
Ranked 12th in the world, Canada plays its opening game versus China Thursday, followed by encounters versus Egypt and Italy on consecutive days. Barring finishing last in the group, the under-19 women will move on to play amongst a group of six qualifying nations for a chance at the quarterfinals.
You can follow Gary Pearson on Twitter: @newagejourno