Former Jewel off to Olympics

National women’s basketball team coach Allison McNeill is heading to the London Olympics with her team.

London-bound: Team doctor Doug Richards snaps a photo of happy Team Canada women’s basketball coach Allison McNeill after the team defeated Japan to qualify for the Olympics.

London-bound: Team doctor Doug Richards snaps a photo of happy Team Canada women’s basketball coach Allison McNeill after the team defeated Japan to qualify for the Olympics.

As she says, her roots in Salmon Arm run deep.

One of the first people to congratulate national women’s basketball team head coach Allison McNeill on her team’s berth to the Olympics was her coach from her days with the Salmon Arm Jewels.

“I received a wonderful congratulations email from Joe Kupkee – my high school coach when I was in Salmon Arm! The connections and lessons from my years in Salmon Arm run deep,” she wrote in an email to the Observer.

With a win separating both teams from earning a berth in the 2012 London Olympics, Canada got off to a fast start in Ankara, Turkey, fittingly on Canada Day, and was able to hold on for a 71-63 win over Japan.

McNeill played with the Salmon Arm Jewels in grades 11 and 12 when they won back-to-back provincial championships, and has been head coach of Canada’s Senior Women’s Basketball Team since 2002.

Remarked Canada Basketball president Wayne Parrish: “They say it takes 10,000 hours to make an Olympic champion. I suspect  head coach Allison McNeill, together with Mike (McNeill) and Lisa (Thomaidis), have put in a lot more than that since 2002.”

McNeill is thrilled.

“It has been 12 years since Canada qualified a women’s team… Bev Smith (also a Salmon Jewel) was coaching that team,” she wrote.

“I am excited that Canada will have a basketball team to watch in the Olympics and I hope that seeing our incredible players at the Olympics will inspire a whole new generation of little girls wanting to play basketball.”

Canada has been placed in Group B in the London Olympics, with; Australia, Brazil, Great Britain, France and Russia.

The event will take place from July 28 to Aug. 11.