Ally Sentance joins Lincoln Prep
From the day Ally Sentance started playing travel basketball against players older than her, she dreamed of a post-secondary hoops career with an NCAA Division 1 basketball team.
The 17-year-old Thorold resident made steady progress in her game year after year and her dream looked like it would become reality when she made the Kia Nurse Elite team in the summer of 2019.
The squad is the only Nike Girls Elite Youth Basketball League member in Canada and graduates of the program have accepted scholarships to some of the top collegiate basketball programs in the United States.
Sentance attended training camps from Friday to Sunday in the summer of 2019 with some of the best players across Canada and competed in tournaments in Virginia, Indianapolis, Chicago and Washingon, D.C.
“In Canada, the basketball is really good but it is insane over there. Some of the girls over there are so well-trained and coached and it was kind of an eye-opener,” she said.
The 5-foot-10 point guard loved everything about last summer.
“That’s where you want to be,” she said. “For most of us, that’s where we want to go play and to be able to experience that and get the exposure now was a great opportunity.”
The Kia Nurse coaching staff let Sentance know when American schools had come to watch her play. Through the fall and winter, she received emails and countless letters from several schools in Canada and the United States and she also reached out to schools to let them know she was interested in playing for them.
Playing for the Nurse team this summer was going to be her chance to turn schools’ interest in her into scholarship offers.
“Myself and all my friends on the team were thinking that this was going to be a really big year for us and we were all going to commit,” she said. “We were going to train, work hard, do all we could and then see what people had to offer us.”
Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March, ending Sentance’s season with the Niagara Juel team and her hopes of a career-making season with the Kia Nurse squad. Instead of showing her stuff at the top tournaments in the States, Sentance and her Kia Nurse teammates had to settle for training for two hours every Saturday in July and August in Brampton.
“We are doing what we can and still trying to get there.”
She admits the summer has been a tough slog at times.
“You see all the people you are playing with who have experience playing in the OSBA (Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association) signing and I am proud and happy for them,” the former Pelham Panther and Niagara Ranger said. “They deserve it but it’s frustrating for me because I want the same thing. I have been working just as hard and why aren’t I getting these calls?
She remains confident that her dream will still come true.
“It’s just exposure and timing and I know my time will come if I keep working hard and training.”
Sentance had planned to return for her fourth and final season with the powerful Sir Winston Churchill senior girls basketball program, but has decided instead to change course and compete for the Lincoln Prep OSBA team and attend St. Mary Catholic Secondary School in Hamilton.
“It is a sad that I won’t be at Sir Winston for my senior year because I have been here for three years but I have decided to go to Lincoln Prep,” she said. “It is a great program, they have great coaching and great girls, and everything about it is excellent.”
It was anything but an easy decision, but she feels the OSBA is her best chance to garner needed exposure.
“I have been following the OSBA since Grade 9 and I have wondered what it would be like to play there,” she said. “I have always known it is really good basketball but if I could do what I wanted to do and not go to the OSBA, I was going to try it. But I can’t now with everything that is going on.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down basketball at every level in Ontario and Sentance is hoping the OSBA can return to the floor in January.
“We are going to train, practise, work on our strength and conditioning and go to school until then.”
Training is certainly not easy when there are no games to prepare for.
“We haven’t played games in four months and you’re wondering when are you going to use stuff and when are games going to be a reality,” Sentance said. “We all love to play the games, we love the competition and the adrenaline you get from playing games.”