Bilie Grant’s determination to drive the paint came from her best friend.
Aunt Darcel Wright taught her the basics of the game when she was 14. Unfortunately, Grant’s sports influence would not be around to see her niece qualify for AAAA senior girls basketball OFSAA with Eastern Commerce two years in a row, as Wright passed away in 2006.
But for Grant, the memory of Wright is what keeps her on pace for a post-secondary scholarship at University of Albany or Lees McRae College in North Carolina.
“(My aunt) was really good. She played at Ryerson and she got a chance to play overseas, and they even asked her if she wanted to play in the WNBA, but she was a more family-oriented person so she wanted to stay closer to home,” Grant said. “She picked up on helping me because she wanted me to do something productive and I had a little bit of athleticism.”
Help she did, as one lesson that continues to press on Grant’s memory is never quit.
“There were times I wanted to give up so bad and she just got it in my mind there’s no giving up no matter how tired you are, no matter if your body feels like it’s giving out, you push yourself so when you’re in the game it’s not as hard,” she said. “While I was in practice, having a tough time, she let me know that in a game, don’t worry about it.”
That tenacity, and a willingness to learn is what her E-Comm coach Kareem Griffin admires the most.
“She has a determined factor to her where she’s really relentless, works hard at attaining the goals that she will set out before her,” he said. “She wasn’t the best skill-wise, she didn’t understand the game but she was willing to learn.”
Once she caught on to the E-Comm system she became the jack-of-all-trades on the court.
“It was very important for her to understand because whether we needed rebounds one game or more offensive spurts or we needed someone to guard the (opponents’) best player, we always looked to Bilie because she is very logical with her decision making on the floor,” Griffin said. “So, all that was very important going into OFSAA because we needed her to be on top of her game.”
Transferring from Father Henry Carr in 2010, Grant became one third of the Lady Saints’ basketball triumvirate, along with Sami Hill and Vaneil Simpson.
But it wasn’t an easy fast-break layup for her.
“Making adjustments from Carr to Eastern was a little different because Eastern has more of a serious program and Carr is more like — I don’t want to knock the girls — but it’s more oriented on the guys,” she said. “Getting myself in shape was the biggest struggle for me because I thought I was in shape but when I got to Eastern I realized I wasn’t in as good of shape as I thought I was.”
Her fear of the weightroom soon ebbed, and she was able to push on, evolving both her technique and tactical aptitude with every dribble of the ball.
“I can notice when I have someone I might be a little faster than, or stronger than so I can take them in the post,” she said. “I can realize mismatches on the court a little faster than some other people on the court.
“This year I learned how to use certain moves to get where I want to go instead of trying to bulldoze everybody over.”
Though strategy has come later in her high school career, the foundation of the game started with the boost in spirit and stamina evoked by her aunt.
“She made me love the game,” Grant said. “Watching her play, she had so much fun doing it.
“Even though she was a lot older than the young girls, nobody could contain her or guard her,” she added. “Her athleticism might have gone down but her basketball IQ always put her over the top.”