Unlike others, Emma Kiesekamp took a unique road in her basketball career.
As a young child growing up in Merrickville, Ontario, Kiesekamp wasn’t introduced to the sport of basketball until grade eight. This was due to the fact that she was interested in drama and music.
“My friend, a few summers ago, she taught me how to play the ukulele a little bit. I also used to play the guitar and I used to play the piano when I was younger,” Kiesekamp said.
Throughout her time of being interested in drama and music, Kiesekamp attended a summer theatre camp at the Kemptville Theatre over the course of two summers.
“It’s like a month-long camp where you pay for whatever, and then you have to audition for a role in the play, and then you present the play at the end of the month. I think, my first year was Beauty and the Beast, and its funny, because I was the wardrobe, because I was the tallest person there. And then second year, it was Charlotte’s Web, and I forget what character I was. But I was one of the adults, or something,” Kiesekamp recalled.
Then, in her grade eight year, Kiesekamp got introduced to basketball when she decided to try out for the competitive team. And from there she’s “been playing basketball ever since,” according to Kiesekamp.
Kiesekamp’s basketball career really took off over at North Grenville District High School, due to taking basketball more seriously. In grade eleven, Kiesekamp’s friend urged her to tryout for the Ottawa Elite basketball team, and from there, Kiesekamp met one of her future Carleton Ravens women’s basketball teammates. Madison Reid and Deanna Hinds.
“And then, that year, we won our division and we played at Ryerson and we went undefeated that season, so that was pretty crazy. The year after, too, when I was in grade twelve, playing for Ottawa Elite was pretty memorable, because that’s when I got closer to Madison Reid, who’s on Carleton with me now,” Kiesekamp said about her time on Ottawa Elite.
“And playing my last year of high school, its something pretty memorable to everybody. Just because you’re taking the next step, going into university and stuff like that, so, being able to make those friendships with my teammates, and being able to move on from high school level to university level with one of my best friends was pretty cool,” she added.
Kiesekamp eventually chose to go to the Ravens, due to her mom having previously worked at Carleton. It was also made easier, due to the fact that Kiesekamp lives in proximity to Carleton compared to schools outside Ottawa.
“I was familiar with the campus, and my dad went to university there, and my grandfather went to university there, so it felt like home, and it felt like it was the right decision,” Kiesekamp said.
“And I think being comfortable with the place that I go for university is very important to me, and I felt, right away, when I was on campus, when I was first meeting the girls on the team, I felt very at home,” she added.
Since being on the Ravens, Kiesekamp has played in 41 games, while racking up 146 points in 582 minutes played.
Not only has Ravens head coach Taffe Charles noticed the personality of Kiesekamp, but also has her teammate, Cynthia Dupont.
“Emma, from the beginning to the end, has always been a person that you love having around. She always sees the good in people, and is honestly an awesome teammate and friend. I’m glad she decided to come to Carleton because she has an amazing personality that tends to always make people smile,” Dupont said.
Last year, during her first year on the team, the Ravens went undefeated, essentially winning gold at the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Critelli Cup, and winning gold at the USports nationals over in Regina, Saskatchewan.
“Probably last year, winning nationals,” Kiesekamp said of the favourite Ravens memory.
“I honestly don’t know how you could ever forget a feeling like that. It’s a moment in my life that I’ll always remember, and its so special because of the people that you did it with. The people on the team at the time, and all the coaches, like, being able to do something so great with such an amazing group of people was something super memorable.”
Not only was last year a dream come true for Kiesekamp, it was also a fairy-tale ending for the graduating players, who went through their whole careers not winning nationals until the end.
“For the graduating players, there’s no better way that you could ask to end your career,” Kiesekamp said.
“Winning nationals, that’s crazy, and when you really think about it, that’s not how it happens for many graduating players. Its honestly so hard to even get to nationals, like, winning it, is crazy. So, for the seniors leaving, there’s nothing better that you could have probably asked to end your career with.”
“Even though, not saying that if you don’t win nationals, your last year is you don’t have a memorable ending to your career. I think, just as long as you succeed expectations and try your hardest, that’s what is important,” she added.
Along with nationals last year, Kiesekamp also got to experience her first time on the court for Capital Hoops: the annual basketball game played between the Ravens and the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees. For Kiesekamp, it was a breathtaking moment due to herself growing up and watching Elizabeth Leblanc and Catherine Traer play against each other, before she ended up on the Ravens as teammates with the both of them.
“I’ve been going to Capital Hoops probably since I started basketball, in grade eight, with my team. And now that I’m in that spot, its pretty surreal. And last year, the first time walking onto the court, even before anybody was there, no crowd or anything like that, it was a little breathtaking, that wow, I’m in this spot now. I get to play here, how lucky, how amazing, I’m so excited,” Kiesekamp said.
While Kiesekamp has had a very memorable basketball career so far, her journey to through the sport comes with challenges and adversities that countless other athletes have faced.
“I think just trying to deal with the pressure, and being able to control your mindset. Going into a game, being scared, thinking that you can’t do something, is not going to get you anywhere. You have to realize that a job has to be done, and you have to give it your all, and do the job and play for your teammates,” Kiesekamp said.
“This year for example, in playoffs and stuff like that, something that motivated everybody was playing for your teammates, and being there for the people that really care, and It makes you want to care more too, and our last game, playing for Alex Trivieri, Cynthia, and Nicole Gilmore, (the graduating players), was something that really motivated all of us,” she recalled.
Due to all of the challenges that Kiesekamp has faced, she has also learned some valuable lessons that will stick with her for life.
“Thinking back to last year, like, who I was last year, or even when I was in high school, I’m not the same person at all. I feel like I’ve grown to be more mature, and on the court, looking at where I am today, compared to where I was a few years ago, I honestly think that I’ve grown so much, and I’ve learned so much, and my basketball IQ has grown so much,” Kiesekamp said.
Due to her growth, Kiesekamp has also come to the conclusion that being on a varsity team is like having a second family.
“Honestly, my team is like my second family. And it’s so true. You may not think about it, but when you actually think about it, its sort of crazy how close you are with the people around you, and your coaches. You probably see your teammates and your coaches more than you see your own family. So, its sort of hard to not become a family dynamic between everybody,” Kiesekamp said.
“But being on a team is such a special bond, and if you’re not on a team you don’t really understand it sometimes, but its something super special, and I’m super grateful that I get to experience that as long as I can,” she added.
While Kiesekamp may still be developing to better herself as a player, she’ll have to step up and be a role model for the team in the future due to her moving up in eligibility and experience.
“The girls that left last year, and the girls that are leaving this year are all very good examples of what vets or seniors should be, so I think I learned so much from them that I’ll be able to apply and help teach younger girls coming into the program,” Kiesekamp said about how she’ll help with new girls coming onto the team.
And through her help, Kiesekamp will apply what the veterans last year helped her with.
“Last year, I think it was pretty intimidating, just because it was such a veteran team, but they really made it feel like we were supposed to be there, and that they wanted us to be there. And so, they’re keeping us involved, and understanding that we are young, and are still learning everything, so they’re obviously very nice, and very willing to help us, but just making us feel like we’re a part of something. I think that was really important,” Kiesekamp said.
As for her future in the sport, Dupont believes Kiesekamp is not done developing as a player, and that Kiesekamp will be a key player in the coming years.
“She was a huge help to our team this season and has improved immensely. I believe that she has not reached her full potential yet, which makes her a huge threat for next season. I cannot wait to see her develop into the player I know she can be.”