Thunder Bay girls basketball program celebrates 10-year anniversary

The Lakehead University based program is celebrating a decade of teaching girls how to dribble.

By Clare Bonnyman, CBC News Posted: Apr 16, 2016 8:00 AM ET

2013 Jr Wolves Team Induction
The 2013 U18 Jr. Wolves team was honoured for their achievements at the RBC Spring Social in early April in Thunder Bay, Ont. The team went undefeated and captured both the Ontario Basketball Association Championship and the Minneapolis Youth Athletic Services Championship. (Lakehead University)

Jon Kreiner is celebrating a decade of teaching girls across Thunder Bay, Ont. how to compete on the basketball court.

Coach Kreiner has run the Jr. Wolves program in the city for the past 10 years, working to “develop basketball at a grassroots level in Thunder Bay.”

Based out of Lakehead University’s athletics facilities, the program is the only dedicated girls basketball development program in the city. Over the past decade it’s given more than 400 girls the opportunity to develop their skills at a competitive level.

In 2007 Kreiner formally started the Jr. Wolves program, hoping to “raise the awareness of basketball, the level of basketball, the numbers playing basketball,” among female players.

Coach K
Lakehead Women’s Basketball team coach Jon Kreiner instructing plays on the court. (Lakehead University)

“Girls can be just as high level or involved as the boys in basketball here in Thunder Bay,” he said.

Today the development program runs from October to March, and includes girls from Grades 3-6. The club program, for girls Grades 5-12, starts as soon as the high school basketball season ends in December.

To date, the program has produced over 30 players who have gone on to play basketball at a University level.

Some coaches have also come out of the program, including Katie Ulakovic, assistant coach for Hammerskjold High School’s varsity girls team, and Carolyn Fregale, an OUA All-Star, now a head coach for the Junior girls team at St. Ignatius High School.

Ulakovic was a player on the first Jr. Wolves team that ever played.

“Seeing our girls give back at the high school or the club level, that’s the next evolution of what you’re going to see,” said Kreiner.

Girls can be just as at high a level or involved as the boys in basketball here in Thunder Bay– Coach Jeff Kreiner

The past decade has been all about growth, and creating a space for talent at home, said Kreiner.

Now “we can develop our own players right here in our backyard in Thunder Bay,” he said.

This month the program’s success was toasted at the Lakehead Athletic’s RBC Spring Social, with a visit from local MP and Minister for the Status of Women Patty Hajdu.