Kris Young walks into the women’s varsity basketball locker room, September 1, one day before training camp begins. The room is empty, as Young knew it would be. She walks up to her locker — a six foot high cubby hole, personalized with a metal name plate — and drops a backpack in front of it. One by one, she removes from the locker worn-out basketball shoes, practice jerseys and hand-written notes left to her by former teammates. Once the locker is empty, she removes from her bag a stack of letters she’s handwritten. Circling the room, she places one in every teammates’ locker. When she returns to her own, she slowly slides her name plate out of its holder, picks up her bag and exits the room for the last time.
Young played her final game for UBC this spring, capping off perhaps the most prolific basketball career any Thunderbird has ever had: winning Canada West’s Most Outstanding Player Award twice (something no other Thunderbird has achieved), earning All-Canadian honours three times and finishing as the all-time UBC regular season points-scorer. But her five-years of eligibility are over now, so what’s next?
“I’ve always wanted to play pro,” said Young. After dropping 40 points on Ryerson this spring, Young was approached and signed by Slan Sports Management, an agency that promotes Canadian Basketball players to professional teams. “It’s just a waiting game to see if someone gets cut from a team,” said Young, “if someone gets injured, or if [a professional team] just realizes they need another player.”
Young has come close to signing pro-contracts a few times, most recently with a team in Portugal, but the deals have fallen through. “They were ready to send me a contract and they called my agent,” said Young, “but they went over their quota for foreign players.” Young faces difficulties as a Canadian shooting-guard without citizenship for another country. European teams are often only allowed to have as little as three non-European players on their rosters, so they often reserve those spots for hard to fill positions. “European teams look for [point guards] or bigs,” said Young, “there’s a lot of [shooting] guards in Europe.”
With the beginning of the basketball season just weeks away, Young is still without a contract, and even she admits her optimism is fading. In the case she does sign with a team, she only intends to play professionally for one to three years, like former Thunderbirds Erica McGuinness, Kelsey Blair and Cait Haggarty.
Currently, Young is coaching kids camps at 3D Basketball — a club team she played for as a child on the North Shore — but she isn’t sold on coaching as a life-long career. “I like getting kids in the gym, and helping them learn new skills, but I’m not passionate enough about it to make it my career,” said Young. After playing through high school, spending her summers at 3D and with provincial teams and then playing for UBC and Team Canada, Young hasn’t had much time to think about what else she would like to do.
Young graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in sociology, but hasn’t thought about using it for anything specific. “I think that I’ll eventually go back to school and do something, I just have no idea what it is,” said Young. “I’m going to take the next couple of years to figure out what I’m passionate about in life, other than basketball.”
It’s a period of exploration for Young, but also one of constraints. Young says she would like to volunteer for things outside her comfort zone, but can’t set up any job interviews because a call from a team would require her to cancel all prior plans — a scenario both Young and her agent are confident is still very possible.
“I don’t want it to be over,” said Young, “but if it is, then I know that I can find other things to do, I had a great career, and got what I wanted out of basketball from my time at UBC.”