To anyone who spends time around a basketball court, point guard is synonymous with floor general. And to anyone who spends time around the Queen’s Gaels, floor general is synonymous with Emily Hazlett.
Hazlett, who was raised in Fredericton, New Brunswick, found herself at the completion of a circle by committing to play basketball for Queen’s. She was born in the city of Kingston, before moving with her family to Sudbury at a young age and finally wound up Fredericton. When it came time, some ten or so years later, to start making decisions about where she would play basketball in university, Hazlett took interest in Ontario schools and made contact with Dave Wilson.
Wilson, who is now in his 35th season as head coach of the Gaels women’s basketball program, was not unfamiliar with Hazlett.
“My mom had told me that when we lived here, she used to scrimmage with the Queen’s team, and did some camps when Dave was coaching,” Hazlett recalls. “He remembered me from when I was young—a little baby on the sidelines.”
After the initial contact with Wilson, Hazlett went to Kingston on a typical recruiting trip, but was unable to scrimmage with the team because she had her wisdom teeth removed right before the visit. “I was kind of just lucky that Dave gave me a chance and he hoped that I was going to be kind of the same player that my mom was when she was playing.”
Now, five years after Wilson took that chance, the Gaels are sitting at the top of the OUA East, dominating regular season play and are the only team in U SPORTS women’s basketball to remain undefeated. Hazlett, the veteran in the backcourt, has been a consistent presence since she stepped foot on the Kingston, ON campus in 2012, averaging 22.8 minutes per game over her career. After starting five games in her rookie season, Hazlett evolved into the courageous leader who now dishes out 4.3 assists per game, good enough to land her at fifth in the OUA.
Frequently described as an “Energizer Bunny” type of player, Hazlett is tenacious, fast, and frustrating to her opponents. Her natural energy carries over onto the court, but her teammates rely on her off the court for advice, guidance, and leadership.
Sarah Saftich, a fourth-year guard for the Gaels who has played with Hazlett for the past four seasons, perfectly summed up the description of her teammate’s character.
“Haz is so unique, in the best way possible. She is such a strong person and is so comfortable being her, which is always something I have admired. I think my favourite quality about Haz is how honest she is, with herself and with her teammates. It’s so easy to trust her.”
That trust is obvious on the court as the Gaels distribute their scoring with Hazlett as the center of that distribution. Queen’s does not have a single scorer in the Top 20 leaderboard in the OUA, but instead has five starters averaging between 9.3 and 10.9 points per game. This is representative of the culture the Gaels have built for themselves, within their team and their athletic department. A culture of support, encouragement, and celebration.
Queen’s athletics has a department-wide competition they call Gold Rush. It is a competition that rewards players who support other Gaels teams by attending their games. This initiative that sees many Gaels student-athletes from a variety of sports, has led to the women’s basketball team gaining recognition from their fellow Gaels, and gaining an entire university’s support behind this team that has evolved and that is beginning to reach its true potential. Hazlett epitomizes this evolution.
“I’ve been a point guard all my life, so I’ve been used to handling the ball, but I think from first year to now, I’ve become way more level-headed. If people put pressure on me, I don’t worry about it. I’m able to keep doing what our game plan is and I think I’ve definitely developed my attacking on offence and being able to make passes to people that are open and score if I have to score. Becoming a better point guard, being able to create things for other people.”
Sacrificing self for the team. Leading by example. Buying into the process. These are all descriptions of sports heroes, and they are all phrases Saftich uses to describe Emily Hazlett.
“That’s how she demonstrates her veteran status: by living and acting like a champion everyday.”