From Courtney Bartel to the Wierks sisters to Kayli Sartori, the Chilliwack connection has been strong with the University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team.
Deanna Tuchscherer is ready to be the next link in that lineage, choosing to play university hoops close to home.
The senior at GW Graham will join the Cascades for the 2019-20 U-Sports season, hopefully after leading her Grizzlies to a AA provincial high school championship.
“I’ve definitely thought about some of the pretty spectacular players from Chilliwack who’ve gone to UFV,” Deanna said Monday morning. “It’s kind of cool to follow in their footsteps because they were all role models to me when I was growing up.
For the last three years, the word on the street has been that Deanna wasn’t going to play at UFV, and probably wouldn’t even stay in the country.
The teenager is certainly good enough for NCAA Div-1 basketball, and that’s where most watchers figured she’d end up, even though her dad (Al) is head coach at UFV.
That’s where she thought she’d end up too. She had 40 schools reach out to her, including programs from high-major conferences like the Pac-12, ACC and Big East.
“Over the last few years I heavily explored options down south, but as I was looking at schools, none of them were the right fit,” she said. “The more I thought about the type of school and type of team I wanted, the more I realized a lot of the things I was looking for were things I saw with my dad’s team growing up.
A dominating forward who led GWG to the AA provincial final last season, Deanna is one of the top players in her age group in all of Canada.
She was one of 15 athletes chosen to represent Canada at the 2018 FIBA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Belarus last July, but she didn’t see much floor-time. That experience seems to have been a tipping point for the teenager, who did a lot of soul-searching when she got home.
“In my heart it (UFV) was always there, but everyone kind of… I almost felt like I had to look down south.” Deanna said. “Obviously it (Belarus) was an amazing experience, but reflecting on it opened my eyes to what was important to me.”
Shortly after getting back, she went to breakfast with her dad, and told him she’d decided to play in Canada.
“Really, for the last two years, all of Deanna’s focus – with mine and (mom) Denise’s support – has been looking for options down south,” Al said. “In August, I think she started to have a little bit of a change of direction, and we asked her if she wanted to start looking at some of her Canadian options.
“At that point, she said that if she was going to play in Canada, she wanted to play for Fraser Valley and for me. As her dad, that was a pretty unbelievable conversation we had, and one that I’ll probably remember for a long time.”
Not once, Deanna said, did Al try to steer her towards the Cascades, even though she knew he’s always wanted to coach her.
“I think he just didn’t want to put that pressure on me,” Tuchscherer said. “He wanted me to make the best decision for me.”
Style wise, Tuchscherer feels she’s a better fit in U-Sports than the NCAA.
“It’s more physical and more team oriented in Canada, whereas down south I feel players rely more on their athleticism,” she explained.
She also preferred a place where she could step in right away and have an impact, and Al feels she’s that type of player.
“She has a high basketball IQ, she understands how to play multiple positions, and I think playing U-Sports basketball is a really good decision for her,” he said. “It’s tailor-made for the type of player she is. She’s played a lot of FIBA basketball with Basketball Canada and I think she’s going to step in and have a great career with us.”
The coach/player dynamic is one Deanna and Al will have to figure out together, and they’ve already talked about how that’ll look.
“He’s always been around, helping with club and summer teams and my high school team,” Deanna said. “It’s obviously going to be a little bit different playing for him in this way, but I also think it’s a pretty special opportunity.
“I don’t know how to explain it, but we balance it pretty well, and if he gets on me for something on the floor, I’ll take it.”
Now that all of this is out of the way, Deanna looks forward to just playing basketball.
The Grizzlies play their first for-real games in late November.
“I’m definitely excited to play my final year with GWG for Sarah (head coach Mouritzen), because we’ve built a really special relationship over the last five years,” Deanna said. “Last year we got as close as we could and hopefully we win it this year, and with all this university stuff done I’m excited to just focus on the season.”