One by one, they leave the nest, establishing roots away from home, perhaps not forever, but for the foreseeable future.
Just a few weeks after Emilie Lafond announced her intentions to remain in Sudbury, suiting up with the Laurentian Voyageurs, come September, teammates Dylann Mazzuchin and Delaney Bourget made official their decisions to move away from home to pursue their post-secondary basketball careers.
And they are likely not the last of the Lo-Ellen Park Prep Knights with decisions to make, with a handful of 2020 graduates in the mix, and a steady wave of talent still behind them.
A 17 year-old guard who has excelled in multiple sports during her time at Lo-Ellen, Mazzuchin has signed on with the Laurier Hawks, set to pursue her degree in Health Sciences.
"Honestly, from day one, I've always been an academic person, I've always prioritized my schooling, so I think it was really important to me to choose a place where both the academic and athletic opportunities were available," she said.
"I got to meet the team and the coach and just got a really good feeling about it."
Having spent the better part of the past four years balancing both her studies with her sporting pursuits, a time which included some select courses within the International Baccalaureate program at Lo-Ellen, Mazzuchin feels well equipped to tackle this next stage of her life.
"Not only is it more advanced course content, but it also prepares you for the amount of work that you have to do in order to achieve good grades," she said. "The teachers, staff and coaches are a great support system here. It's just a really good opportunity at Lo-Ellen to prepare for the next level."
With no less than ten players on the current Laurier roster in their third year of eligibility, or less, Mazzuchin has tempered her expectations. "Being a rookie, it's hard to be a top player, and I'm not expecting that," she said. "But having the opportunity to play with older girls who have been through some of the post-secondary experience, I think I can learn a lot from that standpoint."
That quest to learn has been there from day one, a pursuit that was launched with plenty of help.
"I would have to start off with my family," said Mazzuchin. "My parents go to every game, they drive me to and from every practice, and they've done that for nine or ten years now. I don't know where I would be right now, without them."
"And the Bourget family (Bruce and Jen) have coached me for my entire basketball career. They basically raised me, in their own way, on and off the court." All of which means they are dealing with something of a double whammy, as their daughter joins Mazzuchin in heading out of town, with Delaney Bourget selecting the McMaster Marauders as her next court stop.
"In terms of looking at a post-secondary destination, you kind of have this checklist that you go through in your mind," noted the 17 year old grade 12 student, also at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary. "The two biggest things for me were to look for a great academic institution, and also, an excellent basketball program and athletic program."
"Really, McMaster just hit all of those requirements for me. I was really comfortable with this decision."
Raised in a basketball family, from the outset, Bourget comes by her natural instinct for the game virtually by osmosis. "I think in terms of my basketball IQ, my basketball knowledge, that's certainly at a university level," she said. "I also think that my basic skill set is at the level that I would like it to be at, right now, to have me in consideration for university basketball."
"But there's still so many ways that I can improve."
While local female basketball talent have gone on, in the past, to play prominent roles at the likes of Queen's, Western, Laurier and Laurentian, Bourget might be blazing a new trail at McMaster. "It's really part of the reason that made this decision pretty special, for me, that it's kind of my own path, in a way."
"I think it's very tempting to want to go to the same school as friends that you have played with for a long time. That said, we all have different expectations of what we want our university destination to be like."
Truthfully, the post-secondary watch on this particular collection of Sudbury-based talent almost dates back to their elementary days - which explains, in part, the range of emotions once decision is made.
"I just felt so relieved, like a weight being lifted off my shoulders," said Bourget. "I know it's cliche, but that's literally how it felt. I just felt so comfortable with my decision, so comfortable with the coaching staff, and so excited for my future."
Heading to the home of the defending U Sport national champions, Bourget looked back on a journey in which her coaches (her parents, Bruce/Jen Bourget, Mike Clarke, Dawn Russell, Joey DiMaio, Bill Gordon) have been a big part of the story. "And I am so thankful for all of my past and current teammates, who have helped push me in practices for years," she said.
Still with women's post-secondary basketball, a shoutout to Sudbury native and current Durham Lords star Andrea Zulich, recognized as the Female Athlete of the Week at her school recently. The four year veteran of the Laurentian Voyageurs, who graduated and transferred to complete a fifth year sport management graduate certificate, helped lead the Lords to an eighth straight victory last Wednesday.
Netting a game-high 27 points, Zulich went 4-7 from beyond the three-point line, earning her second double-double of the season with 11 rebounds, as well, in the win over the St Lawrence Vikings. The 5'6" playmaking guard has topped the double digit point total in nine games this year, hitting the 20-point plateau three times.