Video Spotlight - Stephanie Carkner

Stephanie Carkner

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LANGLEY, British Columbia - During the summer between Grades 9 and 10, Stephanie Carkner and her basketball teammates, playing with the Triple Threat Basketball club at a tournament in Oregon, decided to create their own teddy bears.

Why not?

They had some time to kill between games and, for the team, the Build-A-Bear workshop – where one can assemble, fill and customize a stuffed animal – seemed like a brilliant idea. Or at least something do while they wait for their next game.

But for the Spartans 5-foot-4 point guard from Port Coquitlam, B.C., her experience at the Build-A-Bear workshop had a little bit more of an impact. As it would turn it out, that afternoon of creating fuzzy creatures turned into something a whole lot bigger: an affinity for stuffed animals.

When Carkner walked out of the workshop that day with “Sunshine,” she had the first of her now growing collection of stuffed animals; one that includes at least 10 with names and numerous others who may not have the distinction of a memorable moniker but are still very much a part of her gathered assembly.

To say Carkner’s a bit of a fan of stuffies, especially of the pink variety, would be an understatement. It’s been a six-year fascination that has become well-known amongst, at the very least, her teammates.

When Spartans guard Emily Knauff was asked who Carkner would like to have dinner with – and it could be anyone, dead or alive – her backcourt-playing teammate responded by saying, “If her stuffie could come to life, she would love to have a conversation with him.”

And frankly, that’s just Carkner. She loves her stuffies. She loves her pink. But more importantly that warm, fun-loving persona has her teammates loving her and her loving her teammates.

When three of her teammates were asked to describe Carkner in one word, they said, “Cute,” “Snuggable” and “Lovable.”

Add to that the fact one of her favourite things to do away from the court, especially when she may be having a bad day, is bake and one starts to understand what kind of personality Carkner exudes. And the reason Sunshine became a mainstay at her side.

“She’s kind of got this mother hen feel to her,” said Spartans coach Cheryl Jean-Paul. “She has a big heart and she just wants to take care of people. And as much as her teammates make fun of her, it just goes to show how much they love her and how welcoming she is in terms of people into her life.”

But really, that is only half of the story.

While she may often portray a warm and youthful side to her off the court, the graduate of Riverside Secondary who will be entering her fifth and final year at Trinity Western this fall, has an on-court demeanor about her that doesn’t exactly scream pink and stuffed.

“She’s got this competitive streak where if you get her mad on the court, you might just want to take a step back,” Jean Paul said. “And she knows the game of basketball very well. She always works hard and is very competitive in training and in games. She’s balanced. It’s all part of what makes her special.”

And it’s that balance that has helped her bring stability to a team that has seen its fair share of ups and downs since she arrived at Trinity Western in the fall of 2008.

After tearing her left ACL in the second to last game of her Grade 12 year – suffering the injury in the 2008 B.C. provincial championships semifinal – Carkner came to Langley knowing she wouldn’t play for most of her first year.

And while she saw a few minutes of action late in her first season, it wouldn’t be until the following year, 2009-10, when she officially took over the driver’s seat in the Spartans offence.

That fall, still in preseason, the incumbent starting point guard, Lindsey Gustafson, went down with a torn ACL herself. That gave Carkner the reins to the offence. As it turned out, it was a bit of a tough year for the Spartans as they finished with a 5-13 record, missed the playoffs and, shortly after the season ended, saw their coach Kerby Court, let go.

For Carkner however, individually it was a pretty strong campaign. She finished the season third in Canada West with 3.1 steals per game and sixth in the conference with 3.9 assists per game.

And from there, Carkner has continued to improve and steady the Spartans ship.

In Jean-Paul’s first year after replacing Court, the Spartans won just three games and Carkner’s numbers indeed dropped – she averaged 2.2 assists per game and 2.1 steals per game – but through it all, her ability to keep the team from getting too down on itself proved invaluable. And no doubt paved the way for a much-improved 2011-12 season.

This past year her numbers are back up as she’s averaged 2.8 assists per game and 3.2 steals per game and there’s no doubt her calm, yet competitive nature has made a huge difference for the Spartans who finished with the most overall wins in Trinity Western women’s basketball history and finished with an overall record of .500 for the first time ever.

“I think she has brought stability,” Jean-Paul said. “She’s a quiet force. She hasn’t been that much of a vocal leader but she does a great job of supporting those who are speaking. She does a lot of the quiet behind the scenes things. If we have problems getting the ball up from the backcourt, Steph can just break the press herself. She makes things happen.”

The summer prior to this past season, Jean-Paul encouraged Carkner to start coaching. She helped guide a high-school aged club team with AthElite Basketball. Upon her return last fall, she took an even bigger role as a leader with the Spartans.

“I’ve really seen her confidence grow since coaching,” Jean-Paul said. “She’s finding her voice a bit more.”

There too is a balance: talking at times but also listening. That’s Carkner.

While basketball is a big part of her life, it’s by no means the only thing. Her big heart extends well beyond the locker room.

Since going on a family trip to Guatemala in March of 2010, she has developed a passion for missions abroad.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Africa and I’ve always wanted to go to the Philippines,” Carkner said.

Her church has been involved with an orphanage in the Philippines known as Babyannes Mansion. And after graduating, amongst her other travel ventures she plans to pursue, she hopes to find herself doing some kind of missions work in the Southeast Asian country.

Sometimes she’s all stuffies and pink. Sometimes she’s all competitive and fiery. But all the time she has a heart for others.

That’s Carkner.


Last Updated: 2012-06-13
Author: Mark Janzen