Hoops careers wind down for Heat basketball trio

Roz Huber, Madison Kaneda and Melissa Irish are all in their fifth and final seasons with the UBC Okanagan women's team

Kelowna product Roz Huber is one of three fifth-year players who will graduate from the UBC Okanagan women's basketball program at the end of the Canada West season.

For Roz Huber, it might as well have been yesterday that she stepped on the court for the first time as a member of the UBC Okanagan women’s basketball team.

Five whirlwind seasons later, the Rutland Secondary grad is savouring her final weeks in a Heat uniform.

Huber, along with fellow captains and fifth-year grads Madison Kaneda and Melissa Irish, will bid farewell to the program following the Heat’s final game of the Canada West season, Feb. 16 in Kelowna against Thompson Rivers.

After three seasons in the BCCAA and two more in the CIS, Huber has nothing but positive thoughts about her time spent with the Heat program.

“It was a great opportunity for me to be able to play at UBCO in my hometown, to develop for a couple of years and then to get a chance to play in CIS,” said Huber, 23, who will graduate this spring from the Human Kinetics program. “I look at all the connections I’ve made with the other girls, my teammates, with Coach Sem (Heather Semeniuk) and all the people around the gym…I couldn’t be more grateful. I feel really fortunate to have been part of this team and program for five great years.”

And it’s safe to say the feeling is mutual, as the 6-foot post player will undoubtedly be regarded as one of the finest players ever to wear blue and gold. Huber helped lead UBCO to a provincial gold medal in 2010, then a silver medal a year later. In 2011, she was named a BCCAA all-star.

In 2011-12, the team’s historic first season in Canada West, Huber cracked the top 10 in conference scoring, averaging more than 13 points per game.

On top of it all, Huber is on the verge of becoming the UBCO program’s all-time leading scorer.

She is just 16 points shy of Jenna Kantz’s career mark of 862 points.

Head coach Heather Semeniuk, who has watched her development from Day 1, is full of praise for Huber’s contributions to the program, both on and off the hardwood.

“Roz’s work ethic has always been outstanding, she lives a healthy lifestyle, and is always in such great shape,” said Semeniuk. “She’s also an outstanding leader, caring and compassionate, and is totally unselfish…she always puts others first.

“Roz been wonderful player for us,” added Semeniuk, “and she’s a great ambassador for our program and the game. We’re really going to miss her.”

From Huber’s perspective, being part of establishing a viable and competitive Canada West women’s basketball program in Kelowna has been a particularly satisfying experience.

“You maybe don’t realize how special it is and what you’ve been part of helping to build until it’s almost over,” said Huber, who plans to be a personal trainer after she graduates. “We weren’t really supposed to win any games our first couple of years (in Canada West), so I’m really proud of the way we’ve competed. The program continues to make big steps and it’s nice to know I’ve been part of that from the beginning.”

Like Huber, both Kaneda and Irish have been key contributors in UBCO’s evolution into a competitive CIS program.

Kaneda, a Vernon product, has been key piece of the Heat’s Canada West transition, averaging better than 10 points per game over the last two years.

“Madison is a warrior, she’s a kid who will go through a wall, she competes hard and plays with passion and desire,” Semeniuk said. “It will be a hard end for her, hard to see her go. She’s been such a big part of our program from her first year.”

As for Irish, the 5-foot-4 guard has battled both ACL surgery and a size disadvantage to remain a valuable and reliable member of the Heat program.

“Melissa is another wonderful personality,” Semeniuk said. “She’s a hardworking kid who just keeps coming back, keeps plowing ahead and no matter it takes, she comes out on the other end with a smile on her face. She has a great court presence and sets a great example for our younger players.”

The Heat (5-12) returns to action Friday night when they host the University of Fraser Valley.

Tip off at UBCO is 6 p.m.



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