Submitted by Geordie Michell, Coach, Belleville Spirits and Level Up Basketball Academy
“She is a baller. She is just very solid at everything. Saying that doesn’t really do her game justice. Basically she has no real weakness to her game. She can shoot, pass, handle the ball, defend, rebound, attack the basket and create for teammates.” – Coach Caleb Hugh, Loyalist Lancers Women’s Team
When speaking with any of the grade 12 Nicholson Catholic College (NCC) student’s past coaches, they all reiterate the same thing; Brigid Bechervaise is a complete basketball player and extraordinary teammate. Of course this is not something that happens over night. Bechervaise has a number of factors that have contributed in developing her into the all around player she is today, the biggest influence of all being her family.
Brigid started playing basketball in grade 3 because she wanted to be like her older brother Calum, and began playing competitively for the Belleville Spirits in grade 5, under long-time Spirits Coach Sandro Palleschi.
“She was always a smart player. Her basketball IQ was as good as any player I coached, even at a young age.” recalled Coach Palleschi. “We were undersized back then so she always had to cover kids bigger than her and at times faster than her, but she was always able to hold her own. Her ability to anticipate the play meant she would rarely get burned.” Bechervaise was voted MVP of her grade 6 Belleville Spirits team under Coach Palleschi.
Although her basketball journey began because of looking up to her brother, Bechervaise touts her father, Jeff Bechervaise (photo left), as her biggest basketball influence. Brigid’s father, who played college basketball for the Loyalist Lancers, helped her develop throughout the years, signing her up for every camp and making sure she always had a team to play on, no matter the obstacles.
“My grade 7 year there was no one who would step up to coach my age group for the Belleville Spirits, so he took time out of his busy schedule to coach and make sure I had a team.” Bechervaise shared. After that season, her father continued on as an assistant coach with all of Brigid’s Belleville Spirits teams, continuing to help her excel. “Over the years he has figured out how to push me my hardest without being too hard on me.”
Brigid saw a lot of success in her early playing days, but some of her favourite memories in her basketball career came when she entered high school. From grade 9 to 11, Bechervaise’s Nicholson Catholic College teams won the Central Ontario Secondary Schools Association (COSSA) championship every year, two of which she was MVP of her team. Those same teams earned a trip to the Ontario Federation of School Athletics Associations (OFSSA) tournament in her grade 10 and 11 years.
Her NCC coach, Tim Coates, had high praise for Bechervaise:, “Brigid is a very good player. She pretty much can do it all. She shoots well, she brings the ball up the floor, rebounds, and defends the other team’s best player. She always received lots of attention from our opponents but she still would manage to score about twenty points per game. On top of it all she was a good teammate who encouraged those around her. She was very easy to coach.”
Bechervaise’s biggest athletic achievement to date would have to be capturing the U16 AAA Ontario Basketball Association’s Provincial Championships in Scarborough with her Belleville Spirits teammates in 2019. The group of girls ran the table, winning all five games they played. This is the only time in the history of the Belleville Spirits organization that a team has won this championship; crowning them the top “AAA” team in all of Ontario. When asked about Brigid, her Coach of that team, Tom Callahan, who has watched Bechervaise play since grade 4 with his daughters team, shared, “She has always had a very good understanding of the game and has a very high IQ. Brigid has developed as a leader on the court. She is also her teammates’ biggest cheerleader, and does a good job staying positive and motivating her team.” Callahan also noted that his fondest memory of Coaching Bechervaise “…was when we won the D1 provincial gold. To see the joy in Brigid and her teammates when the buzzer sounded was one of my fondest memories from any team I have coached!” Bechervaise was named MVP of the game and MVP of the team that year.
While Bechervaise has had great success and memories through her grade 11 year, she shared how her biggest disappointment was missing her final season of high school basketball because of COVID. “I didn’t know my last game at Nicholson would be my final high school game.” A feeling that far too many athletes have had to experience over the past year.
Next year Bechervaise is going to the University of Ottawa to study kinesiology. She will join the women’s basketball team as a “redshirt” freshman. This means she practices with the team for her first year, but knows she won’t get any playing time. “I want to make sure I am not a redshirt after my first year at Ottawa. I plan on pushing myself against the players on the team [University of Ottawa] once we are able to practice, and do everything I can to make sure my skills are where they need to be,” said Brigid. It is likely that her work ethic and determination will get her there. Right now she works out 5-6 days a week, weightlifting and getting stronger. In a COVID restricted world, Bechervaise said she is, “…trying to do any sort of camp or basketball session that can get me into a gym and get shots up.”
When asked what advice she had for youth who want to start playing basketball, or already are, Bechervaise voiced that it is important to, “…believe in yourself; confidence is a big thing in sport. If you have a goal, let nothing get in the way of achieving it.” She went on to share that PGC Basketball Camp, which she attended on five separate occasions for a week each time, was also very helpful in developing not only her basketball skills, but overall life skills as well. “It’s more than just a basketball camp, it teaches you how to have a better attitude and be positive towards your teammates, coaches, and yourself.” Basketball has also shaped her life in other ways as well. Bechervaise explained that she, “…has gained confidence playing basketball and how to deal with tough situations under pressure.”
A good example of this came from a story that Coach Caleb Hugh recalled from Brigid’s grade 11 year. “I watched Brigid’s two games against PECI in high school ball last season. The first game PECI played a box and a defensive strategy sometimes used to stop a team with 1 really strong player] against her the entire game and beat NCC. Brigid was extremely frustrated. The next time they played was in the COSSA semi-finals and Brigid destroyed them! Impressive of her to bounce back like that. PECI certainly expected to win that one.” It was a true demonstration of growth and perseverance. Character building that will surely continue to benefit her through basketball and life.
As she moves onto play at the University of Ottawa, Bechervaise will be “carrying the flag” for Belleville basketball. Only a handful of ballers from our area have the opportunity to play at the university level. She has set the tone for the next group of female basketball players coming up behind her and has become a great role model. Young ball players from our area will see that they TOO can make it!