Hamilton Transway – The House They All Built

The Hamilton Transway Women’s Basketball program has been at its peak for……well, 30 years now.
Throughout modern-day sports, particularly at the youth level, institutions with the ability to spawn a prolific stream of elite athletes are a rarity. We now live in a time where sport has never been so popular, so encouraged, or so readily practiced throughout the world. So when a program consistently churns out quality player after quality player onto today’s ever broadening and ceaseless conveyor belt of young athletes pre-ordained for greatness, we collectively sit up and take notice. Not dissimilar to other academies of sporting excellence, the results accrued by Hamilton Transway Women’s Basketball over the past four decades, since the club was founded in 1979, have served to elicit resounding recognition from outside observers.

We all endeavour to appropriate these feats of accomplishment in different ways. Some sit on their wrinkly old keisters navel-gazing the pros and cons, the advantages and drawbacks or predicting how or when the dynasty will meet its last days. Others are paid large sums of money to pinpoint the quantitative paradigm amongst all the success and in turn emulate it for the benefit of other ambitious developmental programs. And some of us sit back and appreciate what is unfolding before us, much like the art connoisseur when his or her gaze is fixed on an impressionist masterpiece.

“This season was the toughest season that I can recall during my entire tenure”, exclaimed Coach Richard Nurse. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the man who has been at the helm of team operations for well over a decade at the prestigious club. “The majority of our team are grade 11, our opponents on the other hand could regularly field players 1 or 2 years older and there is a huge difference in two years at this level”. Despite the challenges, Hamilton finished 15-2 in provincial play and won out in this season’s Juel league tournament, besting the undefeated Brampton Warriors in the final by a score of 88-82. This was a massive triumph, made all the more impressive by having to peg back from a 9-point deficit in the title game.

Reluctant to reveal the secret recipe for this success, Coach Nurse did however shed partial light on the dedication to continuity within the system. “A half hour before we even take the floor the girls are told to be ready, run your floor drills with the focus of a game-time play, individual scoring is secondary, putting team points on the board paramount”, he explains. Undoubtedly the aforementioned are all important elements to be upheld within any team, and surely nothing foreign to almost every other player on a league roster indoctrinated with similar modes of practice throughout the course of a season. When pressed further, Coach Nurse reiterated these basic fundamentals. For a second one could be forgiven for asking if this man, arguably the face of the program, was being coy or understandably reluctant to divulge some occult philosophy shared amongst only a core network within Ontario’s winningest basketball club.

But this very question answered itself as the interview progressed, as Coach Nurse wouldn’t consider himself or any one individual the face of the Transway basketball program, and it is this precise shared outlook on all things that serves to delineate the distinctly all-inclusive MO of this club. “The game itself is built on social aspects and emotional investment which from an educational standpoint is so important in a young woman’s life. For example, I would say one of the most vital members of our coaching team is Gillian Valvasori, a former alumna who has now offered her time to give back. Having Gillian here is crucial to the entire operation, as I’m sure there are several things the girls feel more comfortable confiding about to her”.

It’s this obvious camaraderie that aided the team at this year’s Boo Williams Nike Invitational Tournament staged in Hampton, VA. Hamilton Transway amassed a 3-1 record which was enough for them to make it to the Sunday playoff round, eventually succumbing to the Maryland Pride 60-55. “I’ve been taking teams down to the Boo Williams for 10 years and this year was the best result. Partaking in recruiting tournaments staged in the US is essential for both us as coaches and the players themselves in order to gauge who can cut it with NCAA calibre opposition”.

One such player whom the jury has very much reached its verdict on is Hamilton’s 5’11 guard and daughter of Coach Nurse, Kia. Miss Nurse is almost unanimously considered the premier high school player in the country and possibly all of North America for that matter, though I’m told no decision has yet been made as to where the Juel scoring champion will be taking her talents upon graduating.

Of course promise amongst phenomenal young athletes can be as much a blessing as a perpetual adversary, which is precisely why Coach Nurse goes on to explain the importance of harnessing these young prospects under his tutelage. “We currently have within our program several players who we believe have a legitimate chance at joining Shona Thorburn (drafted in 2006 by the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA) in the paid and university ranks. Obviously Christina Buttenham (F/G) has recently committed to Iowa and so will be lining up for the Hawkeyes in 2014 which is a fantastic achievement, but we also have other exceptional young players your readers should watch out for such as Hilary Hanaka (G) and Amira Giannattasio (G).” Indeed all three players came up big for Hamilton during the league tournament final game, scoring 16, 18 and 13 points respectively with Buttenham also pulling down 8 rebounds. “We also have a couple of grade 8 players yet to feature and we’re very excited to see how they progress when inevitably given their opportunity, namely Hailey Brown (F) and Hanna Hall (PG)”.

Coach Nurse summed things up by offering a glimpse into the initial challenges faced during his time with Hamilton and tactfully enlightening me as to his expectations for the future of Transway basketball. “At times the main obstacles to overcome are things that seem simple like trying to get the kids to believe in where this can take them and what they can achieve, especially since we are by no means a massive organization, but once they start believing in themselves and what they’re doing there’s no limit to the possibilities”.

Next week, Hamilton Transway’s players will travel to Cincinnati to participate in another recruiting tournament alongside several top US high school teams prior to embarking on the Junior National Championships taking place in Washington later this year, and with almost all current roster players returning next season the future is looking as strong as…well, the past. “I think we’re doing the right things” acknowledges Coach Richard Nurse. We, the mere connoisseurs of sport think so too.

Photo Credit:
Feature: Bhavisha Morphet/Aerial Promotions
Article: Transway Basketball