You could say it was love at first sight.
Celina Guadagni knew early in her life that she wanted to pursue basketball as long as she could and the passion never left, because she is now realizing her dream at Vancouver Island University (VIU).
The 21-year-old is in her third year at VIU, where she studies sports health and physical education. Her end goal isn’t clear yet, but it will probably involve kids and sports somehow. One thing she is sure of, though, is her desire to play basketball.
As a junior, Guadagni is seeing lots of playing time with the VIU Mariners, and success at that. Through 10 games this year, the tall, outgoing and cheery baller is seventh in the league in minutes played (296) and fourth in three-point percentage (31.4). Averaging almost 30 minutes on the court each game, she has helped her team to a 7-3 record this season, a year after winning the PacWest Championships and going to Windsor, Ontario for nationals.
But it’s just about a ball and a hoop for her.
“I feel like no time exists when I’m playing basketball. I have always loved it,” Guadagni said while taking a break from shooting hoops over the Christmas break.
Playing for VIU wasn’t a sure thing. She had received a letter of interest from the team, but still had to work her way onto the team during tryouts. But she must have done something right since then to still be kicking, she said with a smile.
“I have much more of a leadership role this year, so I’m getting more experienced with that. We had a bit of a rough start this year, but we’re looking to win provincials then head to nationals in Alberta if we can,” Guadagni said.
She started playing basketball seriously around Grade 4 and realized that she loved the sport.
Like many Rupert athletes, she grew up playing a variety of sports including soccer, badminton, volleyball and basketball but the latter was always her favourite.
High school was an important time for Guadagni and shaped who she would become. It started with being selected to play on Team BC in Grade 9, which was a big highlight for her. She also spent time coaching for Prince Rupert Minor Basketball Association. Of course, being a Hurricane-turned-Rainmaker is also high on her list of accomplishments, too.
“We ended up winning two zone championships in the northwest and then we went to provincials twice. That was a big highlight of my high school career for sure,” Guadagni said.
In Grade 12, she went to Brazil for a year on exchange, through Rotary. It was an incredible experience for her, touring the country, going to school and staying with host families. But when she came back, she wasn’t sure she would continue with basketball. However, her mom and family pushed her to do it, which was a decision she is grateful for now, because Guadagni knows she wouldn’t be on a university basketball team right now otherwise.
“Basketball takes me to a place where nothing else can take me. It has been there for me through rough times and I’m really glad I found it,” she said.
Through minor ball to the Rainmakers to the Mariners, the game has taught her so much, but most of all, it has inspired her to work hard and stay focused.
“Nothing you really want is going to come easy and if you work really hard, then you’re going to be successful,” Guadagni said.
That was a lesson she learned at VIU. Even though she didn’t have the role she ultimately wanted for the first while, she stuck with it and followed the process.
Guadagni doesn’t know exactly what the future holds, but she knows that she wants to go as far with basketball as she can. She wants to coach in the future and especially a competitive team, but for now, “I’m just going to finish university and see where it takes me from there.”
It could take her back to her roots in Prince Rupert, and she wouldn’t mind that. The basketball player loves where she is from.
“It’s always an honour and a privilege to be from here. I love this community and it’s done so much for me,” she said.