By Kajan Thirthanikasalam
A closer look at Centennial point guard Ana Casado
Ana Casado sat on the bench, just hours before the final game of her collegiate career as a member of the Centennial Colts women’s basketball team, on Nov. 30, 2016.
The memories all came back to her in a flash, as the Colts’ starting point guard was ready to play one last game.
“It feels kind of weird,” Casado admitted, as she prepared for her game against the Durham Lords. “I had such a nice experience so I feel sad but I also feel excited because we’re playing against a good team.”
Casado, an international student from Spain, has completed the final semester of her two-year program in Project Management. Her inspiration behind joining the basketball team was through the Centennial website and her past experience in Spain.
“I came here as an exchange student for one semester and I saw that there was a basketball team on the Centennial website so I decided to try out,” Casado said. “I used to play in Spain.”
In the 2015-16 season, Casado was named to the OCAA All-Rookie Team despite the team only winning four games altogether.
However, this season, she has been a veteran influence on the rookies and has played a key role in the Colts starting off 5-3, heading into the final game of the semester.
“I was kind of uncomfortable last year; the language was kind of hard for me. This year, I’m more in my comfort zone,” Casado explained. “The team feels like a family to me and we’re trying to build together.”
When Justin Bobb first got into contact with Casado, he said Casado told him in an email that she wanted to try out for the Centennial basketball team. The Colts coach, at first, was skeptical.
“Ana told me she used to play basketball but hadn’t played in about two years,” Bobb said. “I had no idea what to expect from her.”
However, Bobb invited Casado to attend a workout and was stunned by what he saw from her.
“She was easily the best player in our gym even though she was rusty,” Bobb said.
Casado had high praise for Bobb, crediting him for helping her get used to the environment in Canada.
“He (Coach Bobb) helped me find a job,” Casado said. “He was always supportive of me since I came here.”
Casado expressed her happiness when she found out her parents were coming from Spain to watch her play one last time.
“It’s very exciting having my parents here watching my last game,” Casado said, clearly thrilled. “I haven’t seen my parents since April.”
One of the major improvements that Coach Bobb noticed in Casado this year compared to the past year was her willingness to take on more of a leadership role on the court, particularly by example.
“This year, she’s been more vocal, which is a good thing for us. She’s been encouraging; she’s been on her teammates when she needs to be,” Coach Bobb said. “But she’s always positive.”
Colts assistant coach Ryan McNeilly has also been witness to Casado’s growth on and off the court. McNeilly has noticed for this season, in particular, Casado’s acceptance of criticism.
“Ana’s definitely embraced more responsibility as one of the better players in the league,” McNeilly said. “She’s got calmer on the basketball court than she was last year. She’s grown in the way of her willingness of accepting criticism.”
As for off the court, McNeilly says it’s self-explanatory when it comes to Casado’s kindness.
“You probably wouldn’t find a genuine kinder hearted person than Ana,” McNeilly said. “She will give you the shirt off her back if she doesn’t have anything. She will always look to help teammates or anybody in general.”
Before the game against Durham, the staff here at Centennial decided to have a Seniors Night in tribute to Casado. The coaching staff presented her with a bouquet as a farewell gift as Casado got a standing ovation from the crowd and the opposing Lords.
Although the Colts fell short, losing 70-49, to the Durham Lords, Casado left it all out on the floor, with eight points, ten rebounds, and five assists.
As the days toward the end of first semester draw closer, Casado says she will miss the people she has met at Centennial and the environment just in general.
About what she’d miss, in particular, Casado said sadly,
“The teammates and the coaching staff, for sure. Along with the environment and the student life as well. It’s been an experience that I’ll never forget.”