Team Canada and the Plouffe twins helping put basketball on the map in Edmonton

Katherine and Michelle Plouffe grew up playing basketball in Edmonton, cutting their teeth as all stars on the courts at Harry Ainlay High School

City of Edmonton declares basketball week

Katherine Plouffe posts up during practice with Team Canada at Saville Centre on Thursday. (Min Dhariwal CBC)

Katherine and Michelle Plouffe grew up playing basketball in Edmonton, cutting their teeth as all-stars on the courts at Harry Ainlay High School  

Little did they realize it would lead to professional careers overseas.

The Plouffes play in the Euroleague in France.

Katherine is a star forward with the Tango Bourges Basket, while Michelle just finished off a season with Tarbes Gespe Bigorre and is set to return next year to play for Lyon.

They ended the season by playing in the championship finals, facing off against each other with Katherine's team coming out on top.

"It was exciting for me to play against her," said Katherine Plouffe.

"It was just cool to be in that environment with each other and get a chance to experience the finals in a good league like the French league."

Now the sisters are joining forces on the Canada Senior Women's National Team in the Edmonton Grads International Classic, a tune-up for the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup, which takes place in September in Tenerife, Spain.

The Canadian women beat Turkey 78-45 on Wednesday to take game one of the three-game series.

Growing the game

The win was timely as it came on the same day as Basketball Week was declared in Edmonton by Coun. Tim Cartmell during a ceremony at city hall on Wednesday.

Along with the Edmonton Grads International Classic, the Saville Community Sports Centre is hosting 3-on-3 Canada Quest Finals this week. 

Not too far away at Harry Ainlay High school, Canadian national team member and NBA star Kelly Olynyk of the Miami Heat is the main guest at the Baker Elite Clinic.

All of it a sign that the game is taking off in Edmonton, according to Alberta Basketball's executive director Paul Sir.

"It's a sport that's definitely growing," said Sir at a news conference at city hall on Wednesday.

"I think one of the ways we can measure how it's growing is in participation and the growth in our youth community basketball leagues far exceeds the national averages." 

Olynyk is coaching kids aged 12 to 15 at the annual clinic put on by Alberta Golden Bears great Jordan Baker.

"Having a coach like Kelly is tremendous," said Baker in a news release.

"Not only does he have an amazing amount of experience at the highest level, but he is very willing to pass on that knowledge to the next generation. He adds a whole new dimension to the Baker Elite Clinic."

Giving back

The Canadian women's basketball team has been passing on expertise to young players as well.  

Most of the team's practices have been open to the public, with many young players in attendance. 

This marks the fifth year the national program has practiced based out of the Saville Centre in Edmonton, a place head coach Lisa Thomaidis said feels like home now.
Team Canada coach Lisa Thomaidis runs practice at the Saville Centre. (Min Dhariwal CBC)

"That's one of the biggest things for us is to be in the community and to be visible, and to have these young teams girls and boys come out and watch and see what it's like to play at this level," said Thomaidis.

The Canadian women play two more games at the Saville Centre against Turkey.

Game two is on Friday night at 7 p.m. and again on Saturday at 3 p.m.