When an opportunity to secure a key role with the Thompson Rivers University basketball program presented itself last fall, Parksville’s Chelsea Hoey reached out and grabbed it with both hands.
Over and over and over again.
Targeted for a bench support role for the Wolfpack women’s program prior to the season, the 2015 Ballenas Secondary School grad has instead vaulted into the upper echelon of the Canada West Conference rebounding leaders while becoming “the story” of women’s basketball at the Kamloops school this season, according to Larry Read, TRU’s sports information director.
A 5-foot-10 sophomore forward, Hoey is averaging 8.1 rebounds per game entering the final weekend of the conference season, tops on the team and among the top 10 in the CWC. Perhaps more importantly, she has averaged more than 25 minutes per game and several times has led the team in minutes played — despite coming off the bench.
“An opportunity presented itself and I wanted to take advantage,” Hoey said. “Definitely this year is a big turnover year for us. We lost all of our 5th year players (from 2015-16) and have only one fourth-year, so we’re a very young team.
“I knew there was a great opportunity for me because of the openings. I worked real hard and showed what I could do. All my hard work over the summer paid off, and it was at the perfect time.”
Hoey’s freshman season gave little indication of what was to come this year. Limited to eight conference games by the flare-up of a knee injury suffered several years earlier, she averaged 5.9 minutes of playing time while scoring two points and averaging 2.3 rebounds per game.
But after working out and strengthening the knee in the off-season, she a taste of what was to come in the Nov. 4 league season opener. Coming off the bench against the University of British Columbia, Hoey played 20 minutes and pulled down eight boards, second-most in the game.
“I knew that Chelsea did the work required in the off-season and that her contributions on the court would increase this year due to graduation,” TRU women’s head coach Scott Reeves said. “Chelsea’s biggest contribution has been her rebounding at both ends. She has gained valuable playing time because she can rebound.”
Hoey continued in her super-sub role right through the Christmas break, establishing career highs of 11 rebounds in a game (three times) and 17 points in a Nov. 19 contest at the University of Alberta.
Entering 2017 Hoey was ranked fourth in the CWC in total rebounding and second in offensive rebounding — without having started a game. She was the only non-starter among the top 22-ranked rebounds in the conference.
“Ever since I was younger, rebounding was something my dad (Bill Hoey) always pushed on me,” said Chelsea. “He said that’s an easy way to get points. It’s just a hard-work thing.”
After the Wolfpack suffered a 79-66 loss to visiting University of Victoria Jan. 6, that work was rewarded when Hoey was given her first start in a rematch the following night. Playing 25 minutes, she had 11 points, eight rebounds and two steals against the Vikings.
“It was definitely very rewarding and exciting,” Hoey said of her promotion. “Starting is not a huge deal to me, but it’s nice to be given that recognition.”
One week later, still in the starting lineup against Winnipeg, Hoey had perhaps the best all-around game of her collegiate career. Playing a game-high 31 minutes, she led all rebounders with 10 boards while also matching TRU team highs with three assists and two steals.
“Next to her rebounding, her basketball IQ is constantly improving,” Reeves said of Hoey. “She is becoming more familiar with our systems and that is leading to increased playing time and contributions to our team. Her effort on the court is a tremendous example to our young team of how we want to play.”
Hoey would go on to start five straight games for the Wolfpack, who have struggled to a 2-15 league record in a transition season, but was dropped back to a bench role as Reeves attempted to shake things up for Friday’s game against visiting University of Calgary.
Hoey responded with a 13-point, nine-rebound effort while playing 30 minutes — second-most on the team.
While the Wolfpack women’s basketball program may be rebuilding, Hoey is positioning herself to be a cornerstone of that effort.
“The opportunity for her to improve and have a significant role on our team is huge,” said Reeves. “Due to our youth, her potential is unlimited if she continues to work at the pace she has been. Thankfully, I believe her best years are ahead of her.”
This time, Hoey welcomes the expectations.
“This has been a year for everybody figuring out their new roles and what they need to do to contribute to the team’s success,” she said. “Next year, I think, everybody is willing to put in the work to get to where we need to be.”
Above: Parksville’s Chelsea Hoey dribbles the ball up the floor for the Thompson Rivers University women’s basketball team during its Jan. 14 game against Winnipeg in Kamloops. — Image credit: Andrew Snucins/TRU