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New program shoots for success in developing top-notch student-athletes


A newly established program is elevating basketball standards in the region by participating in the premier league of the country, the Ontario Scholastic Basketball League.

"You have girls that are in this league that are going off to NCAA," said Essa Prep founder and head coach Sharon Butler.

The program prepares student-athletes athletically and academically for post-secondary.

Butler moved to the region a few years ago and said she felt a top-notch basketball program was missing, so she created Essa Prep.

"Players were actually leaving some of this region to go to other areas, to Toronto, they're going to London, in terms of finding prep programs," she explained.

The team also competes in high-level leagues and tournaments to provide exposure to collegiate coaches in Canada and the United States.

The Essa Prep players complete homework together at Innisdale Secondary School in Barrie, Ont. (CTV News/Catalina Gillies)

"One thing that is very universal in the world of basketball is that when there's a ripe area such as this, there's a lot of room for growth, and there's a lot of hungry young talent that's just waiting for an opportunity like this," said assistant coach Jalen Butler.

Butler scouted the players last spring, with only 13 making the final cut, including a few local girls and several from the Greater Toronto Area and Quebec.

"I was really, really happy to have the opportunity because I really like the competitiveness and stuff. And I get to work harder because there are people and coaches that are pushing me," said Beata Musa, Essa Prep player.

The players are kept to a schedule that is not for the weak.

They train every morning at 6:30, attend a full day of classes at Innisdale Secondary School, complete homework together in study hall, review video footage, and conclude the day with an evening practice on the court.

"We spend so much time together that we all form bonds with each other," said player Charlotte Glover.

The costs for the program are supported through scholarships and sponsorships.

Butler also boards six of the players at her home.

"I will drop them to school and pick them up, get them back and forth to their games, get them to their physiotherapy appointments, etcetera, really creating that bond and that sisterhood," Butler said.

On top of the team's weekly games, Essa Prep will play two more tournaments in the States this season.

The team hopes to make the OBSA playoffs in March.

They will host their home opener on November 23. Top Stories

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