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‘We did that together’: Port Williams basketball players praise team for Acadia’s successes

Haley McDonald has set a new record for the highest-ever number of points in a single season as an Axewoman with the Acadia University women’s basketball team. She scored 465 points in the 2018-19 season.
Haley McDonald has set a new record for the highest-ever number of points in a single season as an Axewoman with the Acadia University women’s basketball team. She scored 465 points in the 2018-19 season. - Peter Oleskevich
WOLFVILLE, N.S. —

Two leading Acadia University basketball players are owing all of their success this season not to their own hard work, but to working with their teammates to pull off a stellar year.

It’s been a record-breaking season for Haley McDonald, who now holds the most points scored in a single season at 465 points, and a breakout one for Jayda Veinot, who comes from a long line of basketball stars.

But the two Port Williams-raised athletes are quick to clarify that none of it would have happened had they not had their fellow Axewomen by their side on the court, working at winning with them.

“My teammates opened me up for pretty much every point I got this year. We had to find new ways to make our game work, and we did that together as a team,” says McDonald.

The team had an extremely successful year despite struggling against repeated setbacks with players sustaining injuries and the loss of several key games.

But they made a comeback time and again, rebounding from challenge after challenge, and came out as Atlantic University Sport champions. They also won a game — a first for the Axewomen — at U Sports nationals.

“We were always able to recover to come back and win after those happened, so knowing we had the ability to bounce back was a great lesson to learn,” says Veinot.

McDonald, 21 and Veinot, 20, each started with basketball at a young age. They have shared the court as teammates on Horton High School team, and have both played for provincial teams, including Team Nova Scotia.

Their current head coach Len Harvey says the players may seem alike to spectators watching them each score numerous baskets per game, but they are two very different athletes who are each on a real quest to keep getting better.

Jayda Veinot comes from a lineage of leading basketball players including her father, Kevin, mother, Jennifer, and brother, Keevan, who is a current star on Dalhousie University’s men’s basketball team.
Jayda Veinot comes from a lineage of leading basketball players including her father, Kevin, mother, Jennifer, and brother, Keevan, who is a current star on Dalhousie University’s men’s basketball team.

‘A JOY TO COACH’

Harvey notes McDonald’s relentless dedication to improving her game has made her a joy to coach, and he feels her star power was overlooked when she was recruited for the Acadia team.

“Haley has established herself as arguably the best player in the conference. She has real-time smarts and can change her game in the moment on the court, which makes her deadly,” he says.

Harvey says Veinot’s ability to play is cerebral in nature, and that she’s the nearest thing to being born to play basketball. Her father, Kevin, is considered to be among the best-ever Axemen basketball players, and her mother, Jennifer, led her University of New Brunswick team to three championships in a row.

Veinot’s brother, Keevan, is currently scoring big on the Dalhousie Tigers.

“That family history is definitely there,” says Harvey. “Jayda is inquisitive and always tweaking her game to get to that next level. Her potential is through the roof.”

McDonald says her record-breaking number of points scored this year was the simple result of a team dedicated to practicing.

“It’s cool, for sure, but it’s more of a team accomplishment. It just happened that the ball was just in my hands a lot more this year, and gave me more opportunity for points,” she says. “The way we did everything this year is more of the highlight for me.”

The teammates agree that their work never ends despite having a stellar season and that, if anything, it kicks up a notch.

While their offensive game set the bar in Nova Scotia, McDonald says their defensive game was more of a struggle. It’s something they always targeted during their many practices each week.

Veinot says she has several places to turn when she’s looking to up her game. She says it feels “really cool” to come from a family with such a long and decorated history in the sport.

“We’ll say things like, ’and how many AUS wins do you have again?’ and it’s really funny,” she laughs.

She says she still leans on their expertise whenever she feels stuck in her game, or just wants advice on what she could be doing better. She also draws from McDonald, who says the two often practice one-on-one to keep each other at the top of their respective games.

“We always go head-to-head — it’s me and Jayda in a lot of cases, so I think we both make each other better,” says McDonald.

Both players say their key abilities to shoot at all three levels — at the basket, mid-range and from the three-point line — adds up on the scoreboard and helps create chances for their teammates.

“It draws attention from the other team, so they have to guard me certain ways — that definitely leaves shooting lanes for other people to set up and score,” says McDonald.

Veinot says her rookie year with the team has been an overwhelming one, but one where she’s felt herself grow leaps and bounds from start to finish.

She says the Axewomen were pleased with the season but not fully satisfied with their results, and they want to repeat and go beyond those successes next year to push even further through nationals.

“I’m really proud of the player I’ve become, but so little of our approach is about the individual,” she said. “We think about how we’re doing as a team, and I’m so proud of us all.”

Sara.Ericsson@kingscountynews.ca

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