At this stage of her illustrious career with the Canadian senior women’s basketball team, Kim Gaucher has been on the squad longer than any other player.
It’s a distinction to be proud of, and one that was previously held by fellow Mission native and Heritage Park Secondary product Teresa Gabriele, the veteran point guard who retired after the 2012 London Olympics.
But Gaucher (nee Smith), who made her national team debut way back in 2001 at the age of 16, wants to clarify one crucial point.
“I’ve been here the longest, but I’m not the oldest, so that makes me feel awesome,” the 30-year-old said with a laugh, alluding to the fact that point guard Shona Thorburn is 31.
“I actually played with Shona at the University of Utah – she’s one of my good friends, so I always bug her – ‘Thanks being around, because I don’t want to be the old lady on the team.’”
Jokes aside, Gaucher embraces her leadership role with Team Canada, which is gearing up for the FIBA World Championship in Turkey in September. The team is currently in the midst of a training camp in Edmonton, capped by a trio of exhibition games this week versus Brazil.
“I feel like I’ve had this (leadership) role for the past five or six years,” Gaucher said. “It’s something I’m comfortable with – I know the offence very well, and I love that I can be an older player and teach the ropes to the younger kids and kind of hand off the torch. I think that’s a lot of fun.”
Gaucher is ecstatic about the depth of young talent flooding the Canadian senior women’s squad, led by the likes of twin sisters Michelle and Katherine Plouffe, explosive UCLA point guard Nirra Fields, and University of Connecticut-bound guard Kia Nurse.
“The game of basketball is really growing in Canada,” she said. “We’ve changed how we identify players, and a lot of that started with (former head coach) Allison McNeill.
“I remember going to the very first Centre for Performance and regional training centres, and that was kind of her brainchild and it’s spread across the whole country. We’re starting to identify players younger, and we’re getting them more involved in basketball. That’s what’s helped us out so much.”
Gaucher, of course, is still going strong. The 5’11” sharpshooter was Canada’s top scorer (and ranked ninth overall) at the London Olympics, averaging 13.8 points per game and knocking down a scorching 50 per cent of her shots from beyond the arc to lead Canada to an eighth-place finish.
Gaucher, who got married in 2013, elected not to play professionally in Europe this past season. Instead, she took a communications job with the women’s basketball team at the University of Utah, her alma mater, which gave her access to terrific facilities and schedule flexibility to keep up with her training. Then in April, she took a one-month playing contract in France to gear up for her summer and fall commitments with the national team.
“We’re definitely in a very strong group, with the hosts and Turkey and France, the silver medal team from London,” she said, looking ahead to the World Championships. “But if we get ourselves to a quarter-final game, that’s where I think anything can happen.”