Video Spotlight - Emily Knauff

LANGLEY, British Columbia - Emily Knauff has had to cover them all.

Whether it’s Regina’s Joanna Zalesiak (leading Canada West in scoring with 16.6 points per game) or Saskatchewan’s Kim Tulloch (second in CW with 16.4 points per game) or, her favourite, Calgary’s Angela Hill (fifth in CW with 14.7 points per game) the Trinity Western guard has gone head-to-head all season against the best Canada West has to offer.

And in all honesty, the third-year from Maple Ridge, B.C. has loved every minute.

“It’s a huge motivating factor for me knowing that I’m checking the best player on their team,” Knauff said. “It just gets me excited. I think that’s where my competitive fire comes from; just doing everything I can to not have my check score on me.”

In a year in which the Spartans women’s basketball team has seen its fair share of trying times, Knauff has and has been that steadying defensive force all season.
You know, the one who leads the team in minutes played, averaging 31.7 per game. The one who never quits. And the one who hasn’t come across a player she’s not game to try and shut down.

“I like it when they’re really good,” Knauff said. “It’s more of a challenge and sure it gets frustrating but I don’t like playing people that are just no names.

“The more a girl is talked about the more I don’t want her to succeed.”

And this year she’s had plenty of opportunity to play that spoiler role.

The Spartans 5-foot-9 third-year defensive stalwart has happily jumped in the line of fire all year long.

And most happily when she got to defend Calgary’s Hill.

The Dinos 5-foot-10 fifth-year guard has been amongst the conference’s top scorers all year and is currently second in Canada West 3-pointers made with 2.7 per game.

So when Knauff got the chance to defend Hill, a player similar in size to the Spartans guard – as opposed to the, as Knauff would call them, “twigs” she often plays against – she was pumped.

“She was my height and was so strong,” Knauff said. “I’m usually stronger than most of my checks, so this was tough. But it was fun playing against her because I’m pounding the crap out of her and she’s pounding back. So it was an even match that way.”

But while Hill did go off for 34 points against the Spartans in the Friday night game, on Saturday Knauff held her to just 16 points in 31 minutes of play, while also contributing eight points of her own.
And performances like that are becoming more and more typical.

And a large part of her defensive success this year, albeit she always prided herself in being a strong defender, can be attributed to coach Cheryl Jean-Paul, who isn’t afraid to deliver messages without a sugar coating.

“I like a coach getting mad at me,” Knauff said. “In the moment, it’s not so fun but you know she knows how much better you can be. She demands a lot and has high expectations, which is good.”

With Jean-Paul at the helm, Knauff has focused much more on playing defence with her body and moving her feet and not getting into as much foul trouble by using just her hands.

While Knauff is still second on the team in fouls, averaging 2.7 per game, it can be excusable given each night she’s doing so against the best the opposition has to offer. And, let’s be serious, she’s not about to trade in her physical play anyways.

And why would she.

Sure she’s had to cover them all, but by doing it in a hard-nosed fashion, she’s stopped many offensive machines and also earned herself a free dinner.

Going into last weekend’s matchup against Saskatchewan, Jean-Paul joked that she would buy dinner for anyone who takes a charge from the Huskies Tulloch.

Less than four minutes into the game, not surprisingly, it was Knauff earning her grub.

And right after taking the charge, Knauff jumped back up with a huge smile on her face, then quickly wiped it off and went right back to work.

And you know in her head she said, “Bring it on. Who’s next?”

Last Updated: 2011-03-31
Author: Mark Janzen