After a career season, the Blues forward received the recognition she rightly deserved
While her season ended with a heartbreaking loss in the Pacific Western Athletic Association (PACWEST) finals, Carmelle M’Bikata still had a year to remember.
The star forward was one of the key players on the nearly unstoppable Capilano Blues women’s basketball team, who finished one game away from the PACWEST title and a trip to the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) national tournament. However, as the team recovers from their heartbreaking loss to the Douglas College Royals in the provincial finals, M’Bikata, who was named PACWEST Player of the Year prior to the provincial tournament, will be attending the national tournament in Edmonton, as she has been selected as one of the nominees for CCAA National Player of the Year.
M’Bikata was a force to be reckoned with throughout the entire season. She led the conference in field goals made, total points, points per game and points per 40 minutes. She also had the second highest field goal percentage in the league, the third most free throws made, the third most offensive rebounds and the fifth most rebounds overall. She accomplished all of this while playing the 19th most minutes per game, making her, by far, the most efficient player in the league.
While her natural strength and athleticism certainly aid her on the court, it’s M’Bikata’s off-court work ethic that allowed her to hone her skills and truly shine.
She credited her off-season workouts and goals as some of the main factors in her MVP year. “[My] teammates, family, friends, everyone was pretty stoked,” she said about receiving the award. “It felt like all my hard work had finally paid off.”
An example of this hard work can be seen in M’Bikata’s field percentage. Going into this season M’Bikata was determined to get better. “I wanted my percentage to be higher than it was last year,” she recalled – and it was, by two per cent. While that may not seem like a great leap, it’s an impressive improvement considering she led the league in the same statistic the previous year. “I was pretty happy about that,” she said.
While she had no expectations or goals of receiving league MVP honours, it also came as no surprise to the Blues star. “When I received the award I wasn’t really shocked,” she said. “Honestly, I did work really hard the whole season and in the off-season, so I knew it would either be me or Rachel Beauchamp.”
M’Bikata’s season was even more impressive considering how much attention she drew from other teams.
Although the Blues had an arsenal of players who contributed in their own way, perhaps none commanded the amount of attention from opposing teams’ defence like M’Bikata did. “I’ve been double-teamed all semester,” she said, “and I still feel like I get the position that I want.”
Blues guard Reiko Ohama echoed this sentiment. “Playing with Carmelle is pretty great! She is such a solid force in the paint that if other teams don’t double team or triple team her, the ball is going in the hoop,” she said.
By being such a monster in the paint, M’Bikata was also able to create and facilitate more opportunities for her teammates. “[M’Bikata] really opens up the court for us shooters on the three,” continued Ohama. “It gives us open looks and even if we miss, we know she’s there battling for the rebound and putback.”
Unfortunately, seeing as basketball is a team game, individual accolades come second to team success – and while the Blues had an incredibly successful season, they came up one game short of the PACWEST gold. “Obviously we didn’t get the result we wanted with the provincials,” said M’Bikata, “So, that was pretty rough.”
However, the team has only one fifth-year player from this season’s roster, allowing them the potential to return with the vast majority of their roster – including two of the players M’Bikata came into the league with, and credits as some of her most impactful teammates.
“Obviously I enjoyed playing with everyone,” she said, “But this year I really enjoyed playing with Ace [Ashley De La Cruz Yip] and Karyn Nelson. We’re all fourth year, we’ve been together since first year so it was just nice to see how all of us have developed.”
In terms of returning next year, M’Bikata isn’t sure yet. “Maybe,” she said hesitantly. “I just need the off-season just to reflect and see what I want, and just kind of go from there. I feel like I will.”
While M’Bikata isn’t ready to commit to another year just yet, her return seems likely. After finishing with a silver medal for the second consecutive year, leaving now may be the only thing harder for M’Bikata than the two previous seasons’ conclusions. “The season obviously didn’t go how we wanted,” she said. “I don’t like to finish things off like that.”
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