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George McDougall basketball player commits to MacEwan Griffins

The 18-year-old senior student-athlete said it felt like a blessing to commit to the Edmonton-based Canada West program, given the serious knee injury she experienced last fall.
George McDougall Mustangs basketball player Ava Regier will play for the MacEwan University Griffins next year.

A long-term injury has the potential to completely derail a high-level athlete's career. 

George McDougall Mustangs basketball player Ava Regier isn't letting such a setback be the case, recently signing her letter of intent to play for the MacEwan Griffins women's basketball team next year.

The 18-year-old senior student-athlete said it felt like a blessing to commit to the Edmonton-based Canada West program, given the serious knee injury she experienced last fall.

“I didn’t play my Grade 11 year or my Grade 12 year, so for someone at that level to see that much potential in me truly feels like a blessing,” Regier said. “I’m honestly really excited to be playing for MacEwan next year.”

Regier tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) while playing for the Calgary Basketball Academy (CBA) last fall. The injury mean she had to sit out her senior year of high-school basketball for the Mustangs. 

Playing mostly as a shooting guard, Regier was a standout player for the George McDougall Mustangs in her Grade 10 season, which culminated with her selection as the Rocky View Sports Association (RVSA) rookie of the year. Unfortunately, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 brought an end to the high-school basketball season in the middle of the playoffs. 

The pandemic meant the following year's high-school basketball season was also called off, meaning Regier was unable to follow up from her successful rookie campaign.

“When I didn’t get to finish my Grade 10 year, that was definitely frustrating,” she said. “But not getting to play my Grade 11 year, which is probably the most important time for athletes to be seen by other coaches, I missed that, and only relied on training footage [for my recruitment].”

With most COVID-19 restrictions relaxed in time for her final year of high school, Regier was eager to finally play for the Mustangs again this past winter. But then came the ACL tear in October, shortly before her senior season was set to get underway. 

Instead of battling it out on the court every week, Regier was suddenly battling the internal demons that came with a lengthy rehabilitation period and being forced to watch her favourite sport from the sidelines.

“I became really depressed and started to lose hope,” she said. “There was still a little bit of me that was motivated and knew I was going to play at the next level, but I had to build that back up again and it took a lot of extra mental psychology sessions.

“I had developed into a really strong player and then that injury happened – it was one of the biggest setbacks I’ve ever had.”

George McDougall basketball coach Jessica Bowers said even though Regier wasn't able to play this season, the Grade 12 student was a key member of the Mustangs, helping coach and motivate the squad from the bench.

“She came to practices, and I knew it was hurting her to watch our practices and our games,” Bowers said. “We had a tough season as a team, and to be there on the sidelines was difficult. She loves basketball and knows a lot about it.”

Bowers added she was personally disappointed to not get to coach Regier in her Grade 11 year, and said she was excited for the opportunity to coach her this season.

“Obviously that didn’t happen,” she said. “I know she worked her tail off over the last couple years to make her goal of playing post-secondary a reality, and losing that Grade 12 year was super difficult.

“But she’s a super positive person. There were a few days when she wasn’t her normal positive self after the injury, but that was it.”

Now four months since her knee operation, Regier is still working on regaining her fitness, with the hope of being fully recovered by the time she moves to Edmonton this summer.

“I’m going by my physiotherapist’s recommendations right now, just going on the stages,” she said. “I’ve progressed pretty good with each stage. There is some tweaking; I have to get my quad moving again and fix my running mechanics, just with all the muscle atrophy I’m dealing with right now.”

When it came to her post-secondary basketball prospects, Regier said what attracted her to the Griffins was the team's competitiveness in U SPORTS, as well as the attitude shown towards her by MacEwan head coach Katherine Adams during the recruitment process.

“When I got the injury, she was still interested in me, beyond the injury,” she said. “She checked on me a lot. Those moments where you’re injured, you feel really alone because you’re not in a team setting and feel really out of the loop.

“[Adams] contacted me the day before my surgery and she was really curious how I was doing throughout. That really made me feel important and made me feel like I wasn’t alone. I feel that’s important when you’re leaving home, to have someone that cares about you.”

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