2 Sask. players headed to FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup
'I'm really excited to see what we can bring to the table,' says Angela Bongomin
The men's under-19 national basketball team made history last weekend by winning Canada's first gold medal at an international basketball tournament. Now, the women are up.
Twelve players from across Canada are travelling to Europe for the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup, two of whom are from Saskatchewan.
Angela Bongomin of Regina plays for the University of Regina and Libby Epoch of Moose Jaw, Sask., plays for the University of Saskatchewan.
At six feet two inches, Bongomin will be taking jump balls and fighting for rebounds while playing centre. Epoch, at five feet six inches, will be controlling the ball and directing traffic as point guard.
The tournament starts July 22, but the team is heading to France on Wednesday for an exhibition tournament.
Bongomin and Epoch spoke to us from Toronto before leaving.
How does it feel representing Saskatchewan at an international level?
Angela Bongomin: I feel like the women's basketball scene in Regina — not even just Regina but in Saskatchewan — is really underrated. I think that basketball in Saskatchewan is really on the rise.
I think it's nice for younger girls to see someone that goes to university 20 minutes away playing at an international level, so it's kind of cool to be an inspiration in that way.
Libby Epoch: It means a lot. It's really cool to come back to Moose Jaw and people can ask you how you did and everything.
I think it's really important that we represent ourselves well at the world championships — not just Canada, but Saskatchewan and our hometowns
How are you feeling about the upcoming tournament?
AB: I'm really excited because I feel like we have such a good team and so much talent on the team ... so I'm really excited to see what we can bring to the table.
LE: Really good. We just have one more practice, so hopefully we'll be really prepared for the tournament and exhibition games, and I'm just excited to get overseas.
I've never been to Europe so I think that will be a really cool experience, too.
What will be going through your mind when you walk onto the court for the first game?
AB: I think I'll be trying to remind myself to stay calm because I think I'm a super emotional person, and in the moment I'm going to be thinking about so much, like my family and the team and wanting to perform.
But I think it's about being able to take a second and remember: it's a basketball game.
I'm the type of person that needs to calm myself a little bit to perform at my best, so I think a big thing will be just working hard and staying calm.
LE: I think it's going to be very different from here. There's going to be lots of fans and people cheering from all different countries. Sometimes the refs even don't speak the same languages, so there's a lot of different things that weigh in.
(We) definitely feel some pressure because we have a goal in mind and we want to achieve that, and we have to play our best every game if we want to do that.
How did it feel seeing the men's team win gold?
AB: I think it just made me personally feel like now it's our time. If we work hard and if we're diligent, and even if there are tough times, we can still get to our goal, which is to get gold.
LE: We actually watched the end of that game and it was super inspirational to see them do so well and make history, so hopefully we can do the same. It made me feel super ready to go play and get on the court.
This interview has been edited for length.
Team Canada's first game of the tournament is July 22 at 6 a.m. CST against 15th-ranked Korea.
Canada is currently ranked 4th worldwide in the FIBA youth girls rankings.