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Guelph Sports Hall of Fame welcomes Danielle Everitt-Sinclair

Wednesday's Kiwanis Sports Celebrity Dinner and hall of Fame induction ceremony saw four new members join the hall

It might only be the fifth month of 2024, but it’s already been quite the year for Guelph native and basketball coach Danielle Everitt-Sinclair.

Her Carleton Ravens repeated as U Sports national women’s basketball champions and last weekend Everitt-Sinclair coached four members of that team to a championship victory in the FISU America 3X3 Championship in Argentina.

Oh, and Wednesday night she and the three other members of the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2024 were inducted into the Hall at the annual Kiwanis Sports Celebrity Dinner at the Italian Canadian Club.

“What an honor,” she said. “It’s something else that I don’t think really anybody goes into what they do for the sake of being honoured in that way. So I’m just really grateful and honoured and a lot of appreciation for (2023 inductee) Dave Vallance who put in the bid.”

Everitt-Sinclair went into the Hall as an athlete and a builder for her playing accomplishments in basketball at McMaster and Victoria, her successful playing days in fastball in her teens and her coaching in university women’s basketball at the University of Victoria and Carleton.

“In a lot of ways when you look at my bio and what I’ve done over the last 20 years, there’s not a lot of baseball or softball or fastball in that mix, but without that experience that I had with that group growing up under Dave Valance and Ronnie (Fraresso) and Dino (Fraresso) and all those people, I’m not able to accomplish the things that I did in basketball as a player or a coach.”

It was her time in fastball that her foundation in sports was built.

“What I remember is it was my first experience with a team where there was a common goal,” she said. “There wasn’t talk of having to win, but we were going in one direction and I remember we trained a lot, which I loved -- especially in the summer. I love that we trained a lot. I loved that there was like a family-type atmosphere with the staff. Dave was like the technical guy and Dino and Ronnie played their own roles. Ronnie was the mom of the team in some ways. They all played their own roles as a staff, but they all worked together as well. Without having to say it outright, they modelled excellence and what a high level of work meant and just good things happened with that team.”

Wednesday’s dinner made it a really busy week for Everitt-Sinclair as it came a day after she and the Carleton players returned to Ottawa following a 30-hour trip from Argentina after the 3-on-3 title win.

“That sort of came out of nowhere, the opportunity,” Everitt-Sinclair said of that tournament. “We were offered the chance to go and in a true sense none of us had any experience with 3-on-3. I found out through the process that as a coach, you’re not allowed to communicate with the athletes during the games. You actually get a technical if there’s any communication or interaction, so just little things like that. And the athletes, too, there’s some nuances to 3-on-3 that if you haven’t played it on a regular basis, you just wouldn’t know. So there were comments made by the referees there because we played five games and you could see the progress that they made through those five games once they started to understand how the flow works, because it’s really fast paced. But yeah, it was a lot of fun.”

And her OUA regular season started with a game against the Guelph Gryphons in Guelph’s home gym, the first time she’d coached a team in a league game there although she had coached the Victoria Vikes in a preseason match a little more than a decade earlier.

“In 2012 in October when Tom Kendall was the (athletic director) there, we set up an exhibition game,” Everitt-Sinclair said. “We played three teams in southern Ontario (the Gryphs, Toronto and Western and won all three). We actually stayed in Guelph for the weekend.

“I remember I was expecting my second child. He was born in December and this was October so I had a big belly and that was in the old gym. But, you know, it was an exhibition game and all that so this was the first time in the new facility and also in a game that meant something.”

A game in your hometown is always special, whether you’re coaching or playing.

“Yeah, for sure,” she said. “I remember when I was an athlete at McMaster and the three opportunities I had to come and play at Guelph were always special and it felt very similar as a coach.

“We spent the afternoon there and had lunch at my mom’s place so that was pretty neat. And then, you know, basically just walked across the street to go to the game. So it’s just a great opportunity always when you can play in your hometown in front of friends and family.”

The 3-on-3 tournament brought the first blemish on her 2024 record as Carleton didn’t lose a match after dropping a game to cross-town rival Ottawa Gee-Gees in their final match of 2023.

“We joked with our athletes on the weekend because we lost in the round robin of the 3-on-3 and really shouldn’t have,” she said. “We had about a six-point lead and lost. They hit some shots and we didn’t late in the game. We joked that our first loss of 2024 was in a 3-on-3 tournament in Argentina.”

The tournament with its 10-minute games was a new experience for Everitt-Sinclair, especially the lack of communication with her team during a game as she says she’s very ‘involved’ during the university games.

“Not that I didn’t have respect for 3-on-3 before, but I have so much respect for the nuances of how you win at a high level in 3-on-3,” she said. “We’re going to have a chance to go to China for the world championship now in November, but I’ll be keeping a closer eye (on the sport). I didn’t pay much attention to 3-on-3 last Olympics, but I think I’ll be more intrigued (this summer). There’s always different ways to learn and that’s a really fun part of it.”

And the learning never stops.

“No, absolutely not,” Everitt-Sinclair said. “There’s just the science of it all as the game is constantly changing and evolving so I think it’s important to continue to learn technically and tactically how to coach the game and then there’s the art of coaching, which is really about how you manage people. In the university context, there’s always turnover. We will have six or seven new players coming in this year so how do we fit them in with our core group and that’s what keeps you excited about continuing to do it. I had people, some of my mentors, say to me that when you stop getting excited about learning and you stop getting those butterflies in your stomach, it’s time to hang it up.”

Others inducted into the Hall Wednesday, all in the Builder category, were baseball’s Paul Ante, swimming’s David Clutchey and figure skating’s Pat te Boekhorst.

Sports celebrities were Guelph native and Pan-Am cycling gold medalist Kiara Lylyk, multi-Olympic women’s hockey medalist Vicky Sunohara, newly-retired three-time CFL all-star linebacker Simoni Lawrence, triathlete and Paralympic triathlon guide Sasha Beck and long-time sports journalist Steve Milton who is a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Skate Canada Hall of Fame for his work covering those sports.