“Sixth player” Keneca Pingue-Giles is poised for a breakout season with Rams.
She might not start every game, but she certainly knows how to finish them.
The third-year guard, who was named as Ryerson’s athlete of the week last week, is proving herself on and off the court.
In a game against Laurier on Nov. 9, Pingue-Giles hit the game-winning shot in a 60-59 victory. The day before, Pingue-Giles went off for a team-high 18 points and nine rebounds in a 70-57 win over Waterloo.
“Those moments are what people wish for,” Pingue-Giles said about her dramatic game-winner against Laurier. “That’s what you want to happen in games. It just makes the game of basketball so much more exciting.”
Pingue-Giles’s teammates are impressed with what they see.
“She’s been coming off the bench, as a sixth player if you want to call it, but when she comes on the court, it’s another level,” co-captain Dayana Gechkova said.
“We start to play better and faster, and she attacks the basket very aggressively, which is great for us.”
Gechkova says Pingue-Giles plays with the maturity of a veteran on the team.
“She’s a great leader. She’s only in her third year of play, but I feel like she’s in fourth or fifth year. We are lucky to have her on the team.”
After posting two victories in the home opener weekend, the Rams suffered a pair of blowout losses to Windsor (78-53) and Western (84-52) this past weekend at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC). But Pingue-Giles was nonetheless effective for the Rams, leading the team in points both nights.
Usually a scorer of her calibre starts every game on the floor. But Pingue-Giles is not concerned with being on the bench.
“To me, coming off the bench or starting shouldn’t affect the way I perform,” Pingue-Giles says. “Coming off the bench, obviously I get to watch the flow of the game for the first couple of minutes. Point out weaknesses and see the defence. So when you go on, you can exploit those weaknesses and then attack from there.”
After two seasons of dealing with injuries, Pingue-Giles is finally ready to contribute to the team in a major way.
“I want to be an X-factor. I want to be somebody who can contribute to the team in a positive way. I didn’t really have expectations points-wise, or rebounds-wise, or even minutes-wise, but I just knew that if I continue to put in the work, then the minutes will come.” she says.
Her coach, Carly Clarke, agrees. Clarke has watched Pingue-Giles become a force off the bench, and is very pleased with her performance so far this season.
“She’s starting to become, right now, that person that we can count on to make something happen offensively when we need,” Clarke said.
“Everybody trusts her, because they know that she’s going to step onto the floor with the same effort every game.”
Providing a good example on the court isn’t the extent of Pinge-Giles’s leadership capabilities.
Pingue-Giles, who some of her teammates consider a “class clown,” has a history of leadership off the court as well.
Pingue-Giles was an active member of her community in Winnipeg where she grew up. She was awarded the 2011 Terry Fox Humanitarian Award, as well as the Black Business and Professional Association’s Harry Jerome Award for Athletics that same year.
“Giving back to the community is something that’s near and dear to my heart, because growing up in Winnipeg, there were a lot of people who volunteered who I really looked up to. So if I could be a role model, and set some positive standards for a lot of these kids, that’s just going to make the world a better place.”
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on November 20, 2013.