After a year away from the game she loves, Jenna Korolek is making a return to the hardcourt. The University of Northern British Columbia’s Women’s Basketball team bolstered its backcourt today, officially announcing the commitment of the Prince George native for the 2020-2021 Canada West season.
“It is just amazing. It was a wonderful feeling, because I have wanted to play post-secondary since I was in Grade 11. That’s when I thought, ‘Okay, I can actually do this.’ I have always wanted to play on the UNBC court, and signing on the dotted line made it a reality. It was unreal.”
The 2019 graduate of Kelly Road Secondary was a first-year student at UNBC this year, studying Health Sciences. With a long-term goal of becoming a physiotherapist, Korolek also set her eyes on the short-term goal of playing for her hometown team. She reached out to Timberwolves coach Sergey Shchepotkin, who invited her to come train with the varsity team at the Northern Sport Centre. She did so, and was encouraged by her ability to keep up, as well as the positive nature of the group.
“You think of university ball players at this really high level. It is a huge step from high school to university. Coming here, playing with them, they were all so much more supportive, because they know you and want you to get better. It’s just nice to be able to see that I can play. U SPORTS is so much faster and more aggressive, but I think I will enjoy that.”
The 18-year-old had wanted to play with the TWolves in 2019-2020, but suffered an ankle injury that put her out of action much of the recruiting period. Now 100 percent healthy, the two-time City All-Star hopes her game translates at the next level. In fact, on top of training with the TWolves, Korolek has been battling her own family to sharpen her skills.
“I am a hard worker and a great hustler. I always want the ball in my hand, as a point guard. I always want to be dribbling with pace, and I have gotten really good with my outside shooting. My defense is fast and really aggressive, like my Dad and sister would say, when I practice on them. They say I am too aggressive sometimes, but I think it’s good.”
Korolek started playing basketball at Kelly Road in Grade 10, and quickly gained local prominence. A competitive swimmer with the PG Barracuda, she swam at the Youth National level before making her debut in a Roadrunner jersey. Shchepotkin identified her through the Junior Timberwolves program, and cites her attitude, commitment, and willingness as major assets moving forward.
“We are really excited to welcome Jenna to the program. She is a local product, and she is known for her work ethic on the court. She has the right attitude, and I think her speed, grit, and tough defense will be an asset for our team for many years.”
The five-foot-five speedster grew up watching the Timberwolves play at the NSC, and has been following the program ever since. The 2018 and 2019 winner of the Kelly Road MVP and KRSS Senior Female Athlete of the Year Awards is excited to join a team that has made four consecutive Canada West playoff appearances.
“Being a little, tiny school, it just shows the underdog story. If you work hard, you will succeed. We all have the talent up here. They just worked really hard to get where they are. It is really inspiring to be part of a team that wants to work as hard as I do.”
While COVID-19 has altered the landscape and timeline of the upcoming conference schedule, Korolek is ready. She has earned three zone all-star nods and the Doug Harshbarger Award for commitment, and now she awaits the fulfillment of a longtime aspiration. Joining her teammates and putting on the jersey of the team she grew up cheering for.
“I think it’s going to be a dream come true. I think I am going to put it on and say ‘oh damn, this is real, this is so exciting.’ I am actually a Timberwolf. My goal is on right now. It’s going to be amazing.”