Winnipeg basketball player follows dreams south of the border

WINNIPEG — Following a dream, even if it involves moving far away from family, is a price one Manitoba student is willing to pay as she heads south of the border to pursue her passion to play college basketball.

Emily Mandamin, 19, grew up in Winnipeg, but her love for the game of basketball has taken her all the way to Freeport, Illinois.

“All my hard work had paid off,” Mandamin told CTV News, adding it was “a dream come true.”

Mandamin’s on a full basketball scholarship as the shooting guard for the Highland Community College Cougars.

Mandamin is Anishinaabe from Shoal Lake 39, Iskatewizaagegan First Nation in northwest Ontario. She said even though it was hard to leave her friends and family in Manitoba, she wouldn’t change anything.

“This is exactly everything I prayed for, I dreamed for,” she said. “Ever since I was a little, young girl I wanted to go away to play college ball in the states, and now that I’m finally here it’s exactly what I dreamed it would be.”

Eric Sung, head coach for Dakota Collegiate, worked with Mandamin over her high school career. He said it was clear from the start that Mandamin could go far with her aspirations.

“She had goals early on and we kind of knew that this was what she wanted to do,” he said.

“So developing her as an all-around great basketball player, building all her skills on and off the court, and just kind of understanding what a student-athlete has to do and all the sacrifices you have to make to achieve, that was exciting to watch.”

He said seeing a former student continue on their athletic career inspires him and other students.

“We’re all proud of her and I’m proud of her. I’m really happy that we built this relationship and that I’m always here for her,” Sung said. 

Mandamin wants other youth, especially those from Indigenous communities, to push through any fear and follow their own dreams.

“When fear exists, that means the outcome is going to be great and it’s going to make you a better person overall. You have a place in this world and you need to fight for it and you need to recognize it,” she said.

Mandamin is taking sociology and plans to start a charity sponsoring kids who want to go to college and play sports. 

“It was kind of hard to get money to play sports and things like that – always being in that position of need made me recognize there is a million other kids like me that are in my position and I want to help them,“ Mandamin said.

Of course, Mandamin said if the chance arises to play professionally, she would take it.

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