Erin Simpson doesn’t hesitate when remembering the things she did growing up that got her to the CIS level. She is still doing them.
Simpson was one of those kids who found her passion early on in life and that passion was basketball. She found the sport in Grade 6 and has never stopped playing the game.
Simpson was one of those kids who was always staying late to keep working on her shooting skills long after practice ended. Simpson was one of those kids who always asked her mother to bring her to another basketball camp or local university game at Laurentian.
Simpson was one of those kids who always wanted more basketball, no matter what.
This led to a successful run in high school with the Lockerby Vikings and then to recruitment to Laurentian University, where Simpson has been playing the last three seasons.
She used her time wisely growing up. When she had any time to spare, she had a basketball in her hands and was doing something — anything — to keep honing her skills.
It was her own drive and the support of her mother, Krista, that paved the way for Simpson to become who she is. No longer a kid, she still can’t get enough basketball.
She still uses her spare time to find a hardcourt and shoot some ball. This is the way she wants it.
“Growing up, I was always in my basement dribbling a basketball,” the 21-year-old said. “Club and high school practices were never enough for me. I had to practise all the time.
“My mom was always there for me and believed in me. I would go to gyms to shoot ball and my mom would come to rebound for me. My mom helped me become who I am today.”
Simpson decided on Laurentian three years ago because she was familiar with the program and the women’s head coach, Mike Clarke, through Lady Vees camps.
Simpson also wanted to stay close to her home. She chose to study sports psychology to learn more about the mental side of competing.
Finally making the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) level was a dream come true, but the university life gave Simpson a dose of reality. She had high expectations coming in and had visions of winning rookie of the year and enjoying a lot of team success.
It hasn’t happened yet.
The Lady Vees have had a losing record the last three seasons and, in the team’s final regular-season game Feb. 15, dropped a difficult 65-56 loss to York University.
It was a game that meant, if they had won, the Lady Vees were going to the post-season.
Simpson has changed her personal goals through the experience, but remains determined to win a championship before her time is up at Laurentian in two years.
“None of us on this team want to lose. We want to win,” she said. “After we lost our last game and missed the playoffs, the looks on our faces and the way we felt, I don’t want to experience that again.
“We disappointed everyone. I don’t like to disappointing anyone. We will do better. I’m expecting us to.”
Erin is one of the most dedicated and passionate players I have ever coached.
Lady Vees head coach
Simpson is one of those players whose value to her team goes way beyond stats on a scoresheet. She has averaged 8.2 points per game in three seasons and racked up solid numbers in rebounding, assists and steals.
She shows up to compete regardless of her condition.
Simpson has earned her playing time at the university level through hard work and determination.
“Erin is one of the most dedicated and passionate players I have ever coached,” Clarke said. “She is dedicated off the court and is always working on her fitness and skills. Her only fault in my eyes is she tends to be too hard on herself and sometimes over-thinks her way out of success.”
Simpson has made huge strides in her game since joining Laurentian. She has become a better jumper and developed outstanding offensive skills, which she had in spades coming into the program.
Simpson also sucked it up and changed her style to learn how to be a defensive presence for the Lady Vees.
“The main progress Erin has made comes in understanding and thinking the game,” Clarke said. “She has become a much better defender, especially her team defence, and is a much better passer. Her basketball IQ has improved.
“She always gives her best and is competitive with a quiet toughness. She plays through pain and never backs down.”
Simpson has shown she can play at the university level. There is no denying it.
She made it and stays there by being intense in all facets of her life when it comes to the game of basketball. Her intensity comes from her heart.
“I can be really intense at times and I’m not really sure why I am. I guess I just care a lot, so it shows when I play and practise,” she said. “It was my dream to play CIS basketball. I feel a lot of pride. It’s all I wanted.”
Scott Haddow has been writing about sports in Greater Sudbury for the past 10 years.