“It was hard. I cried a lot.”
Ellen Kett remembers her first semester here as one that was challenging for a number of reasons. The native of Melbourne, Australia decided to come to SFU to play for the women’s basketball team, as well as pursue a degree in health sciences. The transition was tough not only from an academic and athletic perspective, but also for being so far away from home.
Initially, Kett was hesitant about even coming here at all.
“I wasn’t too sold on the idea of coming. I didn’t really want to come. I kind of liked my life back home and wasn’t super into basketball. It wasn’t really my life. I was kind of happy to fizzle out and let it slide, but my mom [was] like, no, you’re going.”
Kett eventually did take her mom’s advice. After exchanging emails with head coach Bruce Langford, she committed to SFU and came to the campus for the first time in August 2013.
“My first four months were pretty hard. With basketball, that was a whole new ball game. Everyone was so much stronger. I didn’t come in super fit, so I was already behind.
“I know especially around Christmas time, I got super homesick. I remember going to [head coach Bruce] Langford’s office saying I want to go home.”
However, the turning point came with a visit from her mother that first Christmas away from home.
“She said ‘you’re not missing out on anything at home. We miss you, but you’re having a great time here.’ I had a lot of great friends and a good support system my first year which helped a lot.”
Since then, Kett has evolved into arguably the team’s most valuable player. This season, she leads SFU, or is near the top, in nearly every major statistical category — including rebounding, a rarity for someone who plays her position of point guard.
“A lot of the times I’m in the right place at the right time,” she explained on her rebounding prowess. “I do work hard and I do play a lot of minutes so that kind of helps, but credit to [Rachel] Fradg[ley] and everyone else. They are the ones who [are] boxing out and I’m just lucky sweeping through.”
“We definitely have the potential to [win the GNAC championship] if we keep improving and keep on the same track.”
The importance to her team is reflected in how often she’s on the court. Kett’s average minutes per game this season thus far is 32.2, and she’s the only SFU player to average over 30. It’s a far cry from last season, when due to a shortage of players, she averaged just under 38 minutes a game and on some nights, even played the entire 40 minutes.
“It’s only a few minutes, but it is definitely making a difference,” said Kett on the difference in playing time. “I had really bad shin splints last year, but this year I am feeling a lot better, a lot fresher every game. It’s great because we have people that can come in and it doesn’t drop off or anything.”
With this new crop of talented newcomers and a solid core of returning players, the team this year currently sports a 14–2 overall record, 5–1 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC). If this pace continues, it will surely be the team’s best record in the NCAA era. Kett attributed the great start to the season to this mix of veteran and new talent.
“We have six new people coming in, but we also had the same core” she explained. “So while we were teaching new people new things, a lot of us already knew what was going on and how to do things. I think that the rookies are really good in a way that they really want to learn and are trying really hard. They push everybody at practice and there is nothing worse than starters knowing they are going to start every game, so it’s nice to have the rookies come in and give everyone a run for their money.”
In her last season of eligibility, Kett knows exactly what her goal is: to win a GNAC championship and go on a run in the national tournament.
“I think that would be an awesome way to go out,” she commented. “We definitely have the potential to do that if we keep improving and keep on the same track.”
However, her plans after graduation are still up in the air. Although she is keen on pursuing a career in nursing in the future, whether it takes her back home or keeps her here is yet to be determined.
“The closer my leaving date comes, the more I don’t want to leave,” explained Kett. “The grass is green here, and when I’m home, I don’t want to come back. So it’s weird for me, in a way, that I don’t know where I want to go. This place has become my home, and all the people around are my family. If I was to leave on a plane and not book a return ticket, it would be like leaving my family behind.”
Fun Fact: Favourite TV show?
“The Office, the US Version. My team is obsessed with it. Well, half of my team is obsessed, and half of them want to kill us.”