Antigonish, NS – A pair of X-Women Basketball student-athletes are preparing to suit up for Halifax teams in the new Maritime Women's Basketball Association (MWBA).
The STFX teammates will be now be opponents this spring as New Glasgow, N.S. native Aliyah Fraser is a member of the Halifax Hornets, while Melina Collins (Brookside, N.S.) will be playing for the Halifax Thunder.
"I am really happy for Aliyah and Melina," comments X-Women head coach Matt Spencer. "Having the chance to train alongside and compete against more experienced players is only going to accelerate their development. At the same time, I also expect that both of them will make a positive impact on their respective teams. The MWBA is an awesome concept and I can't wait to see how it helps to grow women's basketball throughout the Maritimes."
The concept for the MWBA came together during the pandemic thanks former Basketball New Brunswick president Brad Janes, who reached out to Canada Basketball's national women's team head coach Lisa Thomaidis, as well Mike MacKay, performance manager of Canada Basketball's women's high performance program, and Canadian Elite Basketball League commissioner Mike Morreale. Their initial discussions centered around the challenges of creating a professional league in Canada.
Those conversations extended to a number of other university coaches across the country, but it also meant the idea of a national professional league would be a costly endeavour out of the gate.
"My first thought was always to create a league in the Maritimes off the hop due to easier travel and geographical rivalries," said Janes. "More conversations with more coaches and potential interest groups indicated maybe we look at developing a competitive amateur league with present day university players, maybe some pros home for the summer and former players in our own regions. That idea seemed to strike a chord and eventually, the snowball started to roll.'
What resulted was three teams in Nova Scotia with the Halifax Hornets, Halifax Thunder and Windsor Edge, along with three teams in New Brunswick with the Fredericton Freeze, Port City Fog and Moncton Mystics.
Games will be played throughout May and June, primarily on Saturday night or early Sunday afternoons with mid-week games for teams in close proximity.
The MWBA rosters were sorted to create competitive balance where each team could only use a certain number of present day U SPORTS or CCAA players, but could have as many pros or former players as necessary.
"We want present day players to continue playing and improving and we want former players to stay involved in the game," said Janes. "This is about promoting female basketball players, female coaches, officials, minor officials and team executives and marketing."
STFX's Aliyah Fraser is a 5'10" guard, heading into her fourth year of a BASCH degree. She was third in X-Women team scoring this past season, averaging 6.1 PPG and 3.7 RPG in 13 games played. Fraser notes, "I am super excited to play alongside so many talented former and current university athletes. They really inspire me to get better every time I step on the court and I'm looking forward to learning as much as possible from them." Fraser will be playing under head coach John Tramble who is a STFX alumnus and former X-Men cross country runner.
Melina Collins is a 5'10" guard who will be returning to STFX in the fall in her third year of a BScHK degree. She appeared in all 16 games played for the X-Women last season, averaging 3.9 PPG ad 1.3 RPG. "It is super exciting to get a chance to play alongside some of the best female athletes in Canada within the Maritime Women's Basketball Association," she notes. "As one of the youngest athletes in the league, it gives me an opportunity to learn from my teammates and others around me. It's great to have this platform for elite female athletes to perform in a competitive atmosphere." The Halifax Thunder are coached by Brandon Rafuse.
The MWBA opens play this weekend, May 14th and 15th in Fredericton, N.B. Fraser's Hornets will take on Fredericton Saturday at 7:00 pm, while Collin's Thunder squad kicks off the afternoon with a 3:00 pm game against Moncton. Port City and Windsor tip-off at 5:00 pm. All six teams will be back in action Sunday.
The complete league schedule and more information on the MWBA can be found on their website at https://themwba.ca/.
Courtesy Krista McKenna, STFX Sports Information