WBB: Shakirova emerging as defensive stopper for TWolves

January 2, 2018

The UNBC Women’s basketball team had all the makings of a playoff contender heading into the season, but they needed someone to step up. To get her hands dirty, play within the system, and do the little things. Freshman guard Alina Shakirova has seized that opportunity, starting eight consecutive games for the Timberwolves.

“I didn’t expect to start, but it comes from hard work, and my coach knowing what I can do. It’s exciting to help your team when you perform well. I play well on defense, and do the small things to help our team.”

The native of Moscow, Russia has shown flashes of offensive prowess, but it is at the defensive end of the floor where she excels. Her basketball IQ is her greatest asset, and she takes her assignments as a challenge every game.

“I love it. It’s my passion. You cannot always control your offense; sometimes it just doesn’t work. But on defense, it’s all about your attitude. If you want to do it, you can do it.”

Shakirova’s mother is a professional coach in Russia, and was important in instilling her commitment to defense. Her TWolves teammates, like fifth-year Emily Aase, certainly notice her contributions to their success.

“She is a solid player overall, but defensively she is a force for us,” said Aase. “Her defense has kept us in games. We put her on the best player and she has shut them down. It has been really impressive to see from her.”

The five-foot-seven guard’s path to the green and gold is an interesting one. She moved from Russia prior to her Grade 11 year, and played her highschool basketball at Duchess Park, alongside fellow Timberwolves Emily Holmes and Madison Landry. She redshirted last season under coach Sergey Shchepotkin, and now finds herself a major contributor to UNBC. She says her training in Russia, and her North American experiences have combined to help her on and off the court.

“The jump from highschool to university is big. It’s a different speed, so it helps to understand how people communicate. It’s so different from how we communicate in Russia, so it has helped me understand how people work here.”

With eight games to go in the regular season schedule, the Timberwolves have their eyes set on returning to the playoffs. Shakirova has been nursing an ankle injury over the holiday, but expect her to be back on the court, checking the opponent’s best player, and trying to do her part – a significant one – as the TWolves look to make it two consecutive years in the Canada West playoffs.

“It feels great when you can stop someone who is one of the best players. She may be the leader of the team, the top scorer, but on that night, if she can’t score, or can’t do anything – I love this feeling.”