A basketball star who found her fire for the game as a high school student in Salmon Arm has been recognized for her contribution to the sport on a national level.
Joanne Sargent, who already holds a place in the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame (1987), the UBC Sports Hall of Fame (1995), the Basketball BC Hall of Fame (2005) and the BC Sports Hall of Fame (2014), learned in April that she would be one of six others inducted into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019.
“I was kind of awestruck I think a little bit. It was just that feeling of ‘wow.’ It’s a great honour,” said Sargent. “To me it’s a very big recognition to be recognized as part of the Canadian basketball community that actually influenced other people – the game.”
Once the news of her induction got out, friends, family and past players got in touch to congratulate her on the honour.
“I had lots of friends contact me after and go ‘it’s about time’ and all this stuff but I never felt that, that’s not really why I played,” said Sargent “It just came as a result of just being the kind of player I was and the kind of person that I was.”
Born in McBride, B.C., Sargent was raised in Terrace until moving to Salmon Arm at age 12. Once here she fell in love with the game, a great time to do so since Salmon Arm was a hotbed for girl’s basketball at that point.
“I just loved it. First of all it was the game over all others that for whatever reason grabbed me. Salmon Arm was very well known for basketball at that time,” said Sargent. “It was kind of an honour to play with the Jewels, to make the Jewels, specifically basketball at that time.”
After playing with the Jewels, Sargent went on to play for the UBC Thunderbirds women’s basketball team from 1968 to 1973. During that time, Sargent led the Thunderbirds to three Canadian University Championships in 1970, 1972 and 1973.
Sargent also had a six-year senior national team career with Team Canada from 1970 to 1976. She represented Canada at the Pan American Games in 1971 and 1975 when the games were held in Cali, Colombia and Mexico City, Mexico.
She also captained the first ever women’s basketball team to compete in the Olympics at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games. It was here, in a game against Czechoslovakia, Sargent recorded 14 assists – an Olympic record which would stand for the next 20 years.
“We were ranked about tenth in the world at that time and we were playing the top five teams so we were not able to compete well against them,” said Sargent. “For me the fact that I had a record in assists in a game where we were very much outplayed, that to me was kind of a nice feeling.”
More than a nice feeling was the first time she stepped into the court at the 1976 Olympic games.
“It was just such a thrill playing in front of the Canadian crowds and walking into the Olympic stadium, it was just, chills. Chill-making right there,” she said, her voice cracking with emotion from the memory.
Although the honour is of a national scale, Sargent puts the onus of her achievements to Salmon Arm. Specifically her high school coach, Al Bianco.
“I think his belief in me started it all, to tell you the truth. Because I was a bit out of control when I first started and he just kind of let me race around and figure it out for myself.”
A date for Sargent’s official induction has not been set yet.