There's something indescribable about going one-on-one with an opposition's star player and having the skills to hold them off just enough to help catapult your team to a crucial victory. And then, looking up into the crowd to see your mom and dad's face lit up in a toothy smile. That smile is one that you can literally feel.
For Alanya Davignon, that's a feeling she's come to know and love throughout her high school basketball career. And with her commitment to the Capilano Blues, it's a feeling she'll be able to carry with her in the post-secondary stage of her hooping journey.
"Being close to home means a lot to me because that way my parents can still come and watch me.
"Both my parents have been huge supporters throughout my basketball career and have always been there for me and I can't thank them enough for all the time gave up to help me achieve my goals," Alanya said about her mom and dad. "I couldn't imagine being away from them for so long and not having them come to my games, [it] just wouldn't be the same without them."
Alanya's of course referring to her parents watching her suit up with the Riverside Rapids, the star-studded team out of little Port Coquitlam that proved themselves this season thanks to her defensive efforts.
Her mother, Debbie Davignon, says it'll be amazing to continue to cheer on Alanya, since she decided to stay local.
"Basketball is her passion and this is evident when you watch her play. She continually strives to become better, she is a versatile player, a great rebounder, (her 5'7" stature is deceptive) and she has been described as a top Provincial defensive player. I love watching her not only for the caliber of skill she shows but because she plays with heart and soul - and integrity. She makes me proud and I'm looking forward to watching her for many years to come," Debbie reflected.
Alanya is "one of the hardest working young women you will ever meet" and she even won an award for just that. The cheeky "Alanya Needs to Try Harder" athletic award represents her tremendous efforts and success on the court.
The award pokes fun at Alanya's less-than-perfect basketball beginnings. Former head coach Paul Langford tells the "famous" story like it was yesterday:
"When Alanya was in Grade 7, we went down to a tournament in the states and she went to watch her sister in Grade 5, but it was a Grade 6 tournament and we got down there early, and then there were some border problems. So a bunch of kids didn't get down. I went up to the tournament organizer...and I said, 'I have an overage kid, I don't want to lie to you. Can she play until those kids come down because I don't want to be short."
Long story short, Langford says Alanya was given the okay to play for the entire tournament. As Tony (the tournament organizer) put it, "Oh, she's bad." Langford laughs at the memory.
"Two years later, I picked her up for a couple of senior games as a Grade 9...because she worked her fanny off, and I still didn't think she would be there. But she never gave up; never missed a practice; never missed a loose ball; never complained; never whined. And [she] started her last two years of ball. She just works her fanny off. She does all the things that nobody wants to do—and she's a wonderful kid to coach."
The Rapids boasted an impeccable 2018 season, landing a spot in the Final Four in the provinces most prestigious tournaments, including the Tsumura Basketball Invitational and Centennial's Top 10 Shootout, as well as a first-class ticket to BC's biggest show of the year at the provincial championships in Langley where Riverside came in 5th place. Each tournament, Alanya was a wrecking ball on D and a driving force as a playmaker, too. She credits Langford for the growth she's had not only as a player, but also as a person.
"I'm definitely going to miss [my coaches] a lot next year. Paul, thank you so much for everything that you've done for me. You've put in so much time to help me become the player I am today and believed in me since day one. You always pushed me to do my best and gave me the confidence I needed to succeed. I wouldn't be where I am today without you. And to my teammates, thank you for being the best teammates I could have ever asked for. You all mean so much to me and I hope that your next year(s) at riverside are nothing but the best."
Alanya's father, Jean Francois, has also been one of her biggest fans and supporters throughout the years. He attended her games regularly and says he's beyond proud to continue to do so. He praises the leadership his daughter has had from her coaches, too.
"Her determination, perseverance, hard work and her personality have paid off. Having her committed with a local university is fantastic," he said.
"This means for me, I get to be closer in her life. Being a close family has always been important to all of us. We are lucky, we live in the prettiest place in the world and having a child studying locally makes everything much easier. I am a very proud father and also so proud of all her surroundings, such as Paul Langford, Jeremy Neufeld, Anthony Beyrouti, Dani Gardner, her little sister Veniça, Julissa, anyone who has impacted her life and her school and team friends."
JF gives credit to Capilano Blues head coach Chris Weimer for the warm welcome he extended to Alanya and believes she will continue to be supported both on-and-off the court throughout her university tenure while under his lead.
Coach Weimer feels that Alanya will compliment the team well thanks to her hard work and defensive skills.
"Her work ethic and basketball IQ will make everyone around her better. [I'm] looking forward to seeing her grow at the next level with us at CapU," Weimer said.
Though Alanya is excited to don the Cap Blue, she says she'll miss her teammates, but is thankful for the memories that made high school so special.
"We all have such a tight bond and it's going to be weird not seeing them everyday. My team is like my second family and they were always so supportive and encouraging, so it will be hard not having them with me next year."
She says it's a "dream come true" to play post-secondary basketball, even more so since she'll get to stay local and continue to see her parent's adoring smiles in the crowd, too. She's applied for a Bachelor of Arts Major in Liberal Studies, but is leaning towards Occupational Therapy.
Alanya's advice to fellow ballers still trying to decide where to go is simple:
"Do what makes you happy and what feels right and don't go somewhere because someone else wants you to," she says."Go somewhere that is the best fit for you and your personality. Choose a school that makes you feel welcomed where the team and coach have a similar mindset as you to make it a more enjoyable experience. Also include the academics, so the school has a variety of options that interest you."
It's always heartwarming to see an athlete accomplish their goal of playing post-secondary ball and it has been an absolute pleasure for this reporter to watch Alanya do so. She's one in a million and has a beautiful soul, something that can't be taught on the basketball court.
Her parents agree.
"There are so many reasons that I'm proud to be her mom - but mostly it's because of who she is as a person. She's not just a great athlete, she is also a great human being as well," Debbie gushed.
She had some advice to her daughter on this next chapter of her life:
"Be true to yourself, this is your life and your future - no one else's. Capilano has the perfect environment for you to thrive - an excellent basketball team, a smaller, more personal campus with an emphasis on academics as well as athletics, and so many possibilities. Live your dreams and be open to new ones, too!"
Alanya's father adds that he is beyond happy for his daughter on this huge accomplishment.
"I am and always will be a proud papa."
Congrats, Alanya! You truly are an inspiration to young female athletes across the province and we look forward to watch your continued success as a Capilano Blue.
Written by: Crystal Scuor