“During Christmas, it’s weird because there’s not as much snow,” muses London, ON native Rachel Fradgley about her new home in the Lower Mainland. “But the weather here is so much nicer than Ontario. It feels like spring. I really like that.”
The 6’2” forward seems to have adjusted to her new surroundings quite well. Only in her first year, she is already a starter on the women’s basketball team — often playing with senior star Erin Chambers. Notably, she led the team in scoring once this season, in a game against Saint Martin’s University.
However, despite her strong start in SFU athletics, it was tough for the young athlete to make the trip across the continent. “First semester I was really homesick — I didn’t think I’d be as homesick as I was,” she admits.
It took a trip home to give Rachel the perspective she needed. “Once I went back for Christmas and I came back, I just felt a lot better because I realized that this is where I want to be.”
Being so far from home was hardly the first hardship that she had to endure, and overcome. In her grade 11 year, Rachel tore her ACL, which some thought could be career-ending for the high school junior.
“It [was] a challenge,” Rachel says about having to watch her teammates play without her. “It made me really upset a lot of the time, but my teammates were really good about it. They all tried to include me and they tried to make it a super positive experience, rather than a negative one.”
Her injury did end up having a silver lining — it gave her time to think about the sport she loves, and what it means to her.
“I learned a lot about myself, tearing my ACL. I think you learn how much you like the sport and how much adversity you’re willing to go over to get back.”
The idea of turning this negative into a positive, and persevering through it, also influenced Rachel academically, causing her to study the mind. “When I got injured [. . .] there’s a big mental part about it, so I think getting over that mental aspect drew me into psychology.”
In truth, she admits that she’s still “keeping her options open” academically and “trying to explore a bit.” But athletically, there is no question — basketball is her sport. Having started playing in grade five, Rachel says she initially chose basketball because of a family friend.
“One of my dad’s friends ran a basketball program in London, and I have always been really tall, even as a kid. So he noticed that and was like, ‘You should come out to our house leagues and just see what it’s like,’ and I just really enjoyed it.”
However, it wasn’t until later that she became a full-time basketball player, having initially split her time between two sports.
“For three years I was doing both dance and basketball,” she explains. “Then in grade eight, I decided to quit dance and focus solely on basketball.”
Was it a tough decision to quit dancing?
“No,” Rachel says bluntly. “Towards the end of my dance career, my heart wasn’t in it anymore. I wasn’t practicing. I wanted to focus more on basketball.”
This focus on one sport soon paid off for Rachel. Her talent was quickly recognized, and even though she missed a significant portion of prime playing time with her injury — missing the initial tryouts — she made the Canadian national team in her senior year.
She represented Canada at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Women held in August 2014, facing international teams from both North and South America. The team finished with a silver medal.
Although she struggled with the distance away from home, her international experience made the transition to university basketball relatively easy.
“The jump from high school to national was a big jump, [but] from the national level to university was a bit of a smaller jump, because I was already used to playing at a bit of a higher level,” she notes.
Still in the midst of her first year, Rachel is looking forward to where she — and her team — can grow. “I think there have been points where we can be a little bit better, but we’re a young team.”
“Ice cream.” Need she say more?