In her own little way, Kaela Chapdelaine is bringing small-town Alberta into the big time. And the Oregon Ducks guard couldn't be more proud.
Chapdelaine will take to the floor today in Seattle for Oregon's opening-round game against Texas-Christian in the NCAA women's basketball tournament.
And when they introduce Chapdelaine in the University of Washington arena, they will highlight the budding town of Okotoks.
"In our media guide, my hometown is written as Okotoks, Alberta," said Chapdelaine with a chuckle.
"I had the opportunity to start a few games this year and they mention hometowns when they call us out.
"I love hearing Okotoks over the loudspeakers. It's a small town that gets no love. It's nice to bring it to everyone's attention."
Chapdelaine is doing Okotoks proud, even though she didn't exactly spend her entire life there.
As daughter of Jacques Chapdelaine, the former Stampeders offensive co-ordinator who now has the same position with the B.C. Lions, the family moved wherever football jobs would take them.
But the Chapdelaines always seemed to end up back in Okotoks, mostly because Kaela's mother Kim is from Calgary.
Although Eugene, Ore., isn't all that far from Alberta, the Ducks exist in a completely different basketball world than Kaela was used to.
When Chapdelaine arrived at the University of Oregon in the fall of 2003, she couldn't believe the entire town is painted green.
"Americans love their sports," said Chapdelaine, who red-shirted last season because of a shin injury. "Eugene is comparable to Lethbridge. It's not too big or too small.
"But the fan support is incredible. It's amazing how people love the Ducks. There's billboards everywhere, 'Go Ducks, beat whoever.'
"Whoever we play this week that is.
"It's amazing to me how many people encourage us. I can't believe it."
Eugene has Ducks Fever right now, as the women's basketball team is in the big tournament for the first time in years.
Chapdelaine is surprised at how many people are making the trip to Seattle, where she will meet up with her parents and friends driving down from Vancouver.
Because of Kaela's success as a freshman with the Ducks, Jacques and Kim have become fanatic basketball fans.
But growing up, Kaela was naturally drawn toward football because of her dad and two younger brothers, Matthew-Grae and Justin.
"I was such a tomboy and I thought I would be the first girl in the CFL," said Chapdelaine, who picked up hoops in Grade 4. "I was just so full of myself. I got introduced to basketball and I found my true love.
"It was neat to introduce basketball to (my family)."
- - -
HOOPS ROUNDUP: Calgary has several players in the women's version of March Madness, which begins today across the U.S.
Chestermere guard Jody Bell is one of four seniors with the Texas Longhorns, who tip off against Oral Roberts today in Dallas.
Airdrie's Lauren Stagg is a senior with the Arizona State Sun Devils, who play Eastern Kentucky in Fresno, Calif.
And Katie Ward of Calgary is a sophomore with Illinois State, which plays against Baylor today in Seattle.