It’s rare when Hawks’ women basketball head coach Ajay Sharma finds himself at a loss for words.
But there he was Feb. 17, standing by the podium in the Gordon Wragg Student Centre, arm draped over the shoulders of his star player, overcome with emotion.
He fought back tears while sharing stories about the Humber Hawks’ most decorated athlete, Ceejay Nofuente.
“For those of you who come to our games and see the finished product, you really miss the brilliance of her day in and day out in practice,” he said.
Nofuente was honoured by having her jersey — number 24 — retired by the Humber Hawks in an emotional ceremony held before their Feb. 17 game against the St. Clair Saints.
And that’s rare, too.
She has spent the past five years playing for Sharma and is resoundingly recognized as the greatest player in Hawks’ history. However, her basketball legacy extends beyond Humber, as she is also third on the OCAA’s all-time scoring list and is recognized around the league as one of the greatest basketball players in league history.
Even Nofuente, who is known for showing little emotion, found
herself fighting back tears during the ceremony.
“Just having my family and friends here, but also hearing the things my coaches and the athletic director said about me, it touched me,” she said.
Nofuente’s stats speak for themselves as she is the college’s all-time leader in points, three-point field goals, assists and steals. Oh, and don’t forget she holds the OCAA record for points in a game with a 55-point outburst against the Redeemer Royals last year.
Nofuente’s importance to the Hawks’ domination in the league is recognized by the entire staff.
Aycha Hamaoui, a former Hawks’ player and currently an assistant coach for the Hawks, has seen Nofuente’s growth over the past four years. She marveled at what the guard has been able to do off the court in a leadership role for the Hawks.
“Ceejay’s a remarkable athlete, but it’s not just her athleticism and skill that she brings to the team, she’s really able to bring the girls together,” she said.
Although the ceremony was a great time to reflect on Nofuente’s historic career she is not losing sight of the task ahead.
The Hawks look to capture yet another provincial title next weekend as they welcome the best teams from across Ontario for the OCAA Championships here at Humber.
“You would never think your last game will be a provincial championship game, but we still need to get there, it’s three games ahead of us and hopefully another three games after that,” Nofuente said.