When you hear about the Senior Girls basketball team at Britannia, you will most likely hear about Surprise Munie and Shemaiah Abatayo. A dynamic duo, best friends, basically twins. They have played high school basketball together, provincial team basketball together, and club basketball together. You watch them play and you can see the chemistry they have developed over the years.
The downfall of having two superstars on your team? One is often overlooked. Most of the time Surprise is the star of the show, taking home MVP after MVP. Why? Because Surprise is very good. But the thing is, Shemaiah is no sidekick to Surprise; Shemaiah is also very good. She has the ability to step up when needed and shows great poise. On almost any other team, she would be the one taking home the MVP awards every tournament.
Does this bug Shemaiah? If it does, you definitely cannot tell when you watch her play. She is a solid point guard that defends, distributes the ball, and scores when needed. She takes home Defensive Player awards, 3 point shooting trophies, All-stars, and MVP awards of her own. She does everything you need her to do.
This is no Batman and Robin situation, both Shemaiah and Surprise are all-stars in their own right.
University team giving back to the community
Shemaiah will be heading off to Trinity Western University (TWU) next year and coach Cheryl Jean-Paul has had her eyes on her for years. For several years, the TWU program has been collaborating with the Vancouver Girls Basketball Association (VGBA) and organizer of all things to do with basketball in Vancouver, Mitra Tshan. Through those encounters, Coach Jean-Paul was drawn to Shemaiah's style of play because something about it was different.
"Different because you don’t see many young girls take as many risks as she does, and the joy she brings to the game" coach Jean-Paul told BC Sports Hub, "It can drive a coach crazy, but the personality she brings to her team and competition are infectious."
Coach Jean-Paul admits that Shemaiah is the type of guard that is often overlooked early because of her size (she is only 5'3") and "gamer" mode, but possess all the skills you need in a starting point guard. Coach Jean-Paul was one of the first coaches to really believe in what Shemaiah was capable of and to give her a chance. That has paid off because Shemaiah have proven that she had a lot of overlooked potential and has become one of, if not, the best point guards in BC. It is amazing what can happen when you give someone the opportunity to show you what they are capable of.
Creating a family dynamic
As most people who have been part of a team know, having great teammates makes the season way easier. Tough practice? Thank goodness for great teammates to lean on and vent to. Low on energy? Thank goodness for the support of a team to help each other out of the hole. Coach Jean-Paul knows Shemaiah is going to be that great teammate at TWU.
"You know you have a great glue player when other players can’t wait to play with them, and that’s the effect Shem has on a program," says Coach Jean-Paul, "...she has the ability to get people excited and she really cares about team becoming family."
Coach Jean-Paul continued, "It’s hard not to laugh when Shem is around, I really value the time I’ve spent with her over the past 4-5 years and look forward to another 5 years in our program. Her parents have instilled a great sense of gratitude and that is something I appreciate. The family support she receives is tremendous and having her immediate family, the VGBA, Britannia and Strathcona family all supporting her is really exciting. Not everyone gets to realize their dream of playing post-secondary basketball, so I know that we have an important role in supporting that dream."
We are wishing Shemaiah all the best in realizing her post-secondary basketball dream next season, but before that we hope she can cap off an already impressive high school career at AA Provincials.
Britannia is in the Vancouver Sea to Sky zone for Double-A senior girls basketball and playoffs are running February 12-14th. The Top 5 teams from their zone will qualify for Provincials that will take place at the Langley Event Centre February 26-29th, 2020.
Written by: Katie Miyazaki