East-end basketball star hopes to suit up for Canada at worlds
“It’s going to be tough – there’s a lot of great players, especially in my position,” says Pilypaitis, one of the 14 athletes vying to make the final cut on Sunday, Sept. 5. “It’d be a big honour to play for them my first time trying.”
Earlier this summer, Pilypaitis spent close to six weeks in British Columbia training with 20 of the other top female athletes from across the country. She also wore the maple leaf in an exhibition series against Chile in July – the first game action Pilypaitis saw since capping her career at the University of Vermont by leading the Catamounts to the school’s firstever win at the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
“I hadn’t played awhile in an actual game, so it was fun to get on the court and play again,” smiles the St. Peter Catholic High School grad who recently spent three consecutive weeks back home for the first time since high school. “Pick-up just isn’t the same. You don’t have the same mentality and intensity.”
Overall, Pilypaitis says the training camp pushed her harder than in college and her teammates offered a level of competition a step above what she’s used to.
“I think I did fairly well,” Pilypaitis adds, noting she exceeded her own expectations by successfully trying things that she wasn’t accustomed to such as taking pull-up jumpers. “I was happy with how I played. Being a first-timer, I was just getting used to how everything is run at that level. I took my bumps for sure, but I think I stuck with it and got better each and every day.
“That was probably the biggest thing for me – I gained experience.”
The former member of Canadian youth and World University Games teams is now on the cusp of attaining a long-time career goal – to play for the senior national squad. Regardless of whether she makes the final roster for the worlds, Pilypaitis hopes to play professional basketball in Europe later this fall.