“Not the Big Girl Anymore”: Rachel Farwell’s Adjustment From New Brunswick to OUA Basketball

(By: Cameron Tobin)

On April 24th, 2018, the Ryerson Rams Women’s Basketball team announced their first recruit for the 2018-2019 season: 6-foot forward Rachel Farwell from Kennebecasis High School in Rothesay, New Brunswick.

Farwell was a staple on the New Brunswick provincial team, representing her province in three different National tournaments. In 2015, she led her team to a fourth-place finish at the U15 Girls National Championship, averaging 15.5 points per game (PPG)  (3rd in the tournament) and 7.0 rebounds per game (RPG) while putting up tournament-highs with 38 field goals and 12 blocks.

Her on-court accolades spoke for themselves as Farwell was named to the tournament’s First All-Star team. She was also invited to three consecutive rounds of Canada Basketball Identification Camps and was the only OUA recruit to attend the U18 National team camp this past summer.

For Farwell, playing for Ryerson represents the next step in her successful career, while earning the opportunity to graduate with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

As a Freshman in the 2018-2019 season, Farwell made her mark in a big way on the court. Playing in all 23 games, she averaged 11.2 minutes, 4.4 PPG and shot a team-high 37.5% from beyond-the-arc. Since her regular-season debut where she scored nine points in 13 minutes, Farwell has inspired confidence and provided optimism for Ryerson fans looking toward to the team’s bright future.

For Farwell, choosing to spend her next five years of her basketball career at Ryerson was an easy choice.

“The deciding factor was the coaching staff, it’s seriously unmatched, they’re just so smart and [Head Coach] Carly [Clarke] is phenomenal,” she said. “I had the option to stay home and represent New Brunswick but I kind of liked the idea of being able to build a name for myself somewhere else.”

“[Clarke’s] been very specific with her feedback, she knows exactly what role she wants me to have on the team and has been drilling home that role all season.”

Including the 71-62 loss, January 26th, at the hands of the Carleton Ravens when Clarkes’ rotation was cut to eight players. Clarke knew coming in that Farwell’s skills would be easily transferable to the OUA level.

“Rachel is a competitor. She is driven to get better, she is of high character,” Clarke said “we had a strong idea coming in that Rachel would be a part of our rotation this year. Her shooting ability was USports ready on arrival, and her size and strength combined with that positioned her uniquely in our line up to be a challenging match up for opponents.”

As for any freshman, the adjustment from high school to university basketball can be a challenge. Farwell’s light-hearted and easy-going demeanour was certainly pivotal in her smooth transition. On-court, she was challenged with guarding the team’s leading scorer, Sofia Paska, at practices daily to help her through the transition.

“In practices, I ended up guarding Sofia [Paska], like all the time,” Farwell said “With her strength, I didn’t stand a chance, I’m just there, 6-foot lanky little me trying to compete, but this was a constant little reality check of that I’m not the big girl anymore.”

Farwell made a strong impression on senior Sofia Paska, who was proud of the way Farwell adjusted to the OUA.

“She’s very positive, and her three-point shooting and work ethic stood out right away,” Paska said. “She challenged me in practices as she’s a three-point shooter so I had to go to the perimeter and guard her.”

Farwell continued by accrediting the team’s summer trip to Taiwan to help her transition to be ready for the start of the season.

“That was so cool! It was such an advantage for me,” she said. “It was the moment that I realized that I wasn’t in New Brunswick anymore, it kept me in check, as that moment that I realized that it’s a higher level of basketball.”

However, if you ask Farwell’s High School Coach, Moira Gagnon, her on-court success is no surprise.

“I took her on the senior team in Grade 9, but coming out of middle school she was skilled and 6-feet-tall but as she matured, she became a very strong leader,” Gagnon said. “She’s is so coachable, has an incredible desire to learn, takes feedback really well, and she was willing to put in the extra work that it took. And those are the components that it takes to play at the next level.”

“Oh my goodness, Moira has my whole heart,” joked Farwell, who attributes her a lot of her success to Gagnon’s dedicated coaching style. “She’s been working with me since I was 13 and was in the gym with me throughout high school. She was just such a motivation and inspiration for me. I owe so much to her, she was huge in my development.”

Farwell’s transition was aided by her great teammates and the leadership of the seniors. “I was lucky enough to room with Kat [Follis] in Taiwan, so we started our relationship a little earlier than most freshmen would have,” she said. “Kat is a constant ball of positivity, it’s awesome.”  Farwell said that senior Cara Tiemens’ leadership was a key factor in helping maintain the team’s success.

“Cara specifically was such an amazing leader this year. She’s just so level-headed and strong-minded and knows exactly what it takes to get the job done and was really good at communicating that.”

Heading into next season, Farwell is aiming to diversify her role on the Rams next year and become adept to playing as a guard, especially with the Rams set to lose Tiemens to graduation.

“I was like the tallest girl in New Brunswick so back home I played as a 5, but as my guard skills improve and keep developing as a player, I’ll be able to transition to being a guard.”

This rendition of the Ryerson Rams had an attitude that would just not quit. Farwell’s energy played a pivotal role on a team that rebounded incredibly well after tough losses.

“One of my favourite moments was the last time we played Laurentian. In that game [an 85-40 win for the Rams after losing two tough games to York and Queen without starter: Jama Bin-Edward], we were sharing the ball so well, our defence was locked in, and that moment just gives me butterflies just thinking about. It really shifted after those two games, we came into practice that next week ready to work. I was really proud of how we bounced back and put everything together for that Laurentian game, that was big.”

The team exhibited a similar attitude at Nationals after losing the first game to Laval and bouncing back to win the consolation side of the bracket, finishing fifth in the tournament.

“After that game, it was a similar situation to the York and Queens weekend,” Farwell said. “We were just mad, and as a team, we decided that we were not going to take another loss this weekend. We came out in the next two games and managed to get some wins under our belt and finish the season well.”

The sky’s the limit for Farwell. As one of two players from New Brunswick in the OUA (Meghan Stewart from the York Lions being the other), she’s paved a development path for East Coast players to play at the OUA level.

From being the six-foot ninth-grader at Kennebecasis High School to being the skilled forward relied upon to play critical minutes for a deep Ryerson team, Farwell is a role model for those trying to follow in her footsteps. With her skill-set and work ethic, there’s no telling what’s next on her career, or quite how far she’ll go.

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