Joanne Sargent’s basketball fame continues to spread, nearly four decades after she set an Olympic record.
On Dec. 10, Sargent was among 10 athletes who were named to the BC Sports Hall of Fame in Vancouver.
“It was a big surprise – unexpected. It’s with a pretty illustrious group when you go in the place and see all those people. It’s pretty humbling.”
Some of her former teammates from UBC attended the ceremony, as did Allison McNeil, a former Salmon Arm Jewel who successfully coached Canada’s women’s basketball team for 11 years.
“There were really nice Salmon Arm connections,” Sargent said. “Bev (Smith) is in the Hall of Fame, Allison was there and Sandra (Gibbons, nee Tatchell, a former Jewel) emailed.”
Sargent is also featured on other famed walls – at Salmon Arm Secondary, at the North Okanagan Hall of Fame in Vernon and at the BC Basketball Hall of Fame.
Sargent’s basketball career began when she moved from Terrace to Salmon Arm as an adolescent and joined the high school basketball team.
Although she’d never played before, she soon developed a passion for the game. The Jewels won three provincial championships while she was on the team.
“I never really even think I was the best player on our high school team necessarily, it’s the person who’s willing to put in the hours and dedication. It’s not pure talent necessarily.”
She attributes her success, in part, to determination.
“I think I had good anticipation. I could see things developing on the floor. I really liked that, finding people open, finding the person that’s open to take the shot. I just had lots of desire and determination. I didn’t like it when people scored on me. I wanted to not let the other team score and I wanted to help us. I was just very tenacious.”
From the Jewels, Sargent went to UBC in 1967, where she was instrumental in the university team’s four Canada West titles and three national championships.
She was on Canada’s national team from 1970 through 1976, participating in the 1976 Olympics. There she set an Olympic record for assists, one she held for 20 years and, ironically, one she wasn’t aware of until it was about to be broken.
“I didn’t have any knowledge of it,” she says, explaining that Americans were more aware of records. “It was 20 years later that people were hearing that Teresa Edwards was about to break an assist record that had been held by me. I didn’t know anything about it.”
Sargent’s love for basketball hasn’t diminished. With a strong senior sports program in the U.S., she played for a team from Louisiana that went to the U.S. Nationals in the summer, where they placed second.
“It’s a different game – three on three, half court. It takes a lot of the running back and forth out of it, but it’s a very fun, fast game.”
She also usually goes with a team from Vancouver to senior games in Utah.
Her life could have been quite different had she not moved from Terrace to Salmon Arm, she surmises. And she credits coaching with the success of the Salmon Arm program.
“Once you start to have a successful program, success breeds success. People want to play. Just really good dedicated coaches. To me that’s where the accolades should go, people who took a lot of time… For me, Al Bianco was a big influence. He just taught us to work really hard, to never give up. That’s a big thing that people need to be successful.”
At the Hall of Fame ceremony, Sargent, at five ft. four ins., had her photo taken with another BC basketballer, six-ft 10-in Lars Hansen. It reminded her of the 1976 Olympics, playing against a seven-ft two-in. woman from Russia.
“With my hand as high up as I could reach, it was just up to her face. I was ever the optimist.”