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Smashing records

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BY Allyyssa Sousa-Kirpaul

“Three years ago I tore my ACL at a game at Humber playing against Fanshawe, it was, I think, in the third quarter. I did a move, a step back to get the shot off before the shot clock went off and I landed on a girl’s foot. I stepped on her foot while I was pushing off so I was off balance and all I heard was a pop in my knee as that happened I went down grabbing my knee crying, screaming. It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt.”

Ceejay Nofuente is a point guard on the Humber College women’s basketball team and she shares with sweat what she calls her most challenging experience she has overcome in basketball. This year she says she has come back stronger than ever. Nofuente has recently been making a buzz in the OCAA by breaking records and holding titles including all-time leading scorer at Humber, most points scored, the most three-pointers and two time championship MVP.

“I didn’t think I would play basketball again or overcome that injury,” Nofuente says about her rookie year injury. “But then getting a surgery date quickly and with the help of therapy and support from our strength and conditioning staff I was able to come back within less than a year after my surgery and just be a better player mentally and physically.”

Her determination and courage to come back and play led the Hawks to the provincial championships in the 2015-2016 season. In that year, she was also named CCAA championship all-star and OCAA championship and league all-star. She became the first OCAA women’s basketball player in history to be named player of the year and championship MVP both provincially and nationally.

Humber’s women basketball team won the OCAA championship game on March 4th, 2017 against Mohawk College 76-40. In that game, Nofuente had 25 points and 11 rebounds.

“You need motivation and need to have a goal in mind to want to play again because if it wasn’t for my team, my team motivated me because I knew the impact I had on the team and I just wanted to go back and come back and help them and win so we did that the following year,” she says.

As a toddler she followed her uncles around everytime they went to the gym, Nofuente says. They don’t live in the province anymore but they still stream all of her games online. Her uncles were the ones to teach her how to play and kept pushing her to be a better player.

“When she was three or four years old we started bringing her to the gym with our two sons to play basketball and that’s where it started,” says her grandfather Rolando Nofuente while sporting his bright yellow Humber Hawks T-shirt before watching a home game in January.

“She was just dribbling and I told her dribble the ball and start walking and then start running and she got good at it. Ever since that time she loved playing basketball.”

Nofuente’s grandparents have supported her on and off the court her whole life says Nofuente. Calling them her number one supporters. By the time she was six Nofuente started playing in Filipino leagues and they brought her to every game. Her grandfather added that he travels everywhere to watch her to this day including London all the way to Windsor.    

“Every weekend they’d be at least four games on a Saturday and Sunday,” Nofuente says they would drive her all over Southern Ontario to play. “They’d just bring me everywhere. If it wasn’t for them I don’t know how I would get to my games or be able to practice. They were always there, always supporting me even until this day and I thank them for that,” says Nofuente.

According to Humber varsity coordinator James DePoe, Humber has been trying to recruit her ever since she was in high school.

Humber wasn’t her first choice as she went to Ryerson University first for business management. She was named rookie of the year while she played there, but made a decision to come to Humber because she wanted a better academic fit.

“Ceejay is a very good child, she’s humble and that’s what I keep telling her all the time, to be humble. Even though people always tell her she’s good I tell her ‘you always have a lot to learn’,” says her grandfather.

sweat attended a Humber home game against Niagara College in January when the Hawks won 74-44 and Nofuente broke her third record of the month. She became the all-time scoring leader at Humber by scoring her 785th point of her career in the game. The previous record of 783 points hadn’t been broken in 15 years.

After the game, Niagara coach Michael Beccaria explains to sweat how they tried to guard Nofuente on the court.

“Humber’s a very very good basketball team and I think mentally we let them intimidate us,” says Beccaria. “We defended her quite well for the most part and that’s the thing, we really spend time making sure we know how to defend her.”   

After the game, Hawks forward Aleena Domingo, says Nofuente always goes out every game giving all of her effort on the court.

“She’s not thinking about stats, she’s not thinking about breaking records, she’s just going out there and playing her best game,” says Domingo.

Brooke-Lyn Murdoch, point guard for Niagara, was guarding Nofuente most of the game and explains her strategy for blocking her.

“I just played as tough a defence as I could. My goal wasn’t to let her score a lot or get the ball and make her my primary focus. I’d like to think it worked, but she’s such a good player I give her so much props, but she’s tough to guard,” Murdoch says.

“I like guarding her because she is really hard and gives me really good competition.”

Nofuente broke two records earlier  in a game in January against Redeemer University College with a win 92-62. She smashed the two records of the most points scored in a game with 55 points and 13 three-pointers. Although, her intention wasn’t to break a record in that game she says, she thought it was going to be “the worst game ever” because she had a bad warm up and kept missing shots.

“I knew it was at the third quarter at the free throw line that I hit my fortieth point that I broke my record of most points scored in the game,” she says. “I know fifteen points is not far away ‘I’m going to break it’ I just told myself. I had a feeling my coaches knew what I was going for that’s why they kept me in and I was just hitting all my shots and it was just a dream. It was one of those no one could stop me and I was just focused on hitting a point and breaking that record.”   

It was an amazing atmosphere and a great moment to witness says Kingsley Hudson, one of the Humber women’s basketball coaches. Nofuente is definitely a program changer in basketball and leads by example on and off the court he added.

“Ceejay was fluently getting basket after basket it was remarkable, like an atmosphere that you would love to be a part of and a night to remember,” he says.

She juggles work as varsity operations staff at Humber, going to school for her third year in sports management and playing basketball in her schedule. She says one thing someone may not know is she makes time in her busy schedule to go to church twice a week.

Nofuente plays basketball games twice a week and practices three to four times before a game, in addition she also works out once a week. How does she handle her hectic schedule?

“That’s the best question you could ask,” she says. “It’s hard. It’s either you get no sleep, less sleep, you’re just tired and when you have a game you have to get your workouts in. You just have to push and suck it up because it’s all going to be worth it in March.”

Nofuente hopes in the future to play in the WNBA or go to Europe and play basketball professionally.

“We’re hoping she gets what she’s wishing for,” says her grandfather. “She’s just looking for the best offer. We hope the best for her.”

She ended off her fourth season with a total of 905 points and 101 steals. From here on until the end of Nofuente’s Hawk’s career she continues to break records but also creates new ones. Nofuente says she will be returning for her fifth and last year to play. She’ll also finish off her program in September of 2017. Her advice to all young athletes is continue to play what you love.

“Just keep playing. You have five years to play, use it. If you started, just finish. If you’re still in school, play. Be part of varsity, be part of a sport. It helps you get through the school year, it keeps you with a team that could potentially be long time friends and family. It’s a good network.”

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