Maple Ridge's Kolbie Orum wins bronze with Team Canada

Maple Ridge’s Kolbie Orum makes a jump shot at the 2011 FIBA Americas U-16 Championship last week in Mexico. Orum and Team Canada won bronze at the tournament after beating Puerto Rico 53-36 on Saturday. - Contributed
Maple Ridge’s Kolbie Orum makes a jump shot at the 2011 FIBA Americas U-16 Championship last week in Mexico. Orum and Team Canada won bronze at the tournament after beating Puerto Rico 53-36 on Saturday.
— image credit: Contributed

Maple Ridge’s Kolbie Orum came home from Mexico with a bronze medal around her neck after she and the rest of Canadian cadette women’s national basketball team finished third at the 2011 FIBA Americas U-16 Championship last weekend.

Canada beat Puerto Rico 53-36 on Saturday to secure their place on the podium and to qualify for the 2012 FIBA U-17 World Championship in the Netherlands.

For Orum, a Grade 10 student at Maple Ridge Secondary School, her first international experience is one she won’t soon forget.

“It made me so proud to represent my country,” she said. “This is something I’ve been working towards, so I was speechless when I found out I made the team.”

Orum was a member of the Maple Ridge Ramblers senior girls’ basketball team this season, and averaged more than 30 points per game at provincials, earning her an all-star nod. Orum has also been a member of provincial development teams, and despite being 15 years old, qualified for the Team B.C. U-17 squad.

Still, playing in Mexico with Team Canada was unlike anything she had ever experienced.

For one thing, there was no air conditioning, which meant temperatures on the hardwood were in the high 30s.

“She was just pouring sweat out there, everyone was,” said Orum’s mother Rene Croft, who played NCAA Division I basketball with the University of Nevada Las Vegas Runnin’ Rebels.

The gyms were built with open walls to help keep them cool, but that invited in some unwelcome visitors.

“At points there were birds flying around in the gym while we were playing,” said Orum. “It was a totally different experience playing down there.”

Although she still has two years left of high school, Orum already has her sights set on playing NCAA basketball south of the border, following in the footsteps of not only her mother, but of former team mate Mae Woods, now with the Univsersity of Houston Cougars.

“We only played together for one year, but she was a great player,” said Orum. “I’d like to get an NCAA scholarship, but I’m still looking at colleges, so I don’t really know where I’ll go.”

One place she would like to go, however, is the Olympics as a member of the Canadian national team someday.

“I want to be on the senior national team, and hopefully make the Olympic team,” she said.

She will likely face many future Olympians at the 2012 FIBA U-17 World Championships next after winning bronze in Mexico.

Despite playing centre for the Ramblers, Orum played the entire tournament on the wing. At six-foot-three, she wasn’t the tallest player on the team, a new experience for her.

“It was a bit weird, but it let me see things differently, I feel like I have better all-round knowledge of how the offence works,” Orum said. “In college I probably wouldn’t play post, so it was good experience.”

Team Canada played Guatamala, Puerto Rico and Mexico in their first three games of the tournament, beating them handily. That set up a semi-final game with Brazil, which was the team’s only loss of the tournament.

Facing Puerto Rico for the second time in the tournament, Canada maintained a comfortable lead in the first half, but only held a 22-19 edge at halftime. Early in the third quarter, Puerto Rico came within two points, but a 10-0 run, thanks to shot-making by Orum and teammates Cheyanne Roger, Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau and Anmol Mattu stretched the lead to double-digits and the Cadettes never looked back.

This is the first time Canada has won bronze at the FIBA Americas U-16 Women’s Championship and the second time in a row that the cadette women have medaled and qualified for the FIBA U-17 World Championship.

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