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Yael Kaplan Receiving AAA Female Player of the Year Award with Gray Academy Head of School Rory Paul.

Hart Kaplan, basketball father and fan


By Resa Ostrove, Author of Freddie's Problem

Yael Kaplan is no stranger to sports, and former teachers and peers alike have acknowledged that she is a natural born athlete. She will be graduating grade twelve from Gray Academy on May 12, 2010, and has been recruited by the University of Winnipeg to the Women's Wesmen team.

Kaplan has enjoyed a long history of playing sports according to her mother, Faith. Yael played soccer from the age of four to fourteen, tennis and flag football in elementary school, but it was when she switched to basketball her talent for the game was noticed.

University of Winnipeg Wesmen coach Tanya McKay started a program called Take Me On to encourage girls to get involved and stay active in basketball, and this program is where Yael learned the true rudiments of the game.  She moved from community club to the Junior Wesmen program which was run by the U of W for more serious players.  Meanwhile Kaplan continued to play for her school basketball team.

Hart Kaplan, Yael’s father, was always supportive of her desire to play, and happily attended all her games and tournaments. He became known for his trademark hooded sweatshirt, and when the games got intense, he signalled the other parents by pulling up the hood.

When she was sixteen, Kaplan and fellow Winnipegger Jessie Rosenbaum played in the JCC Maccabiah games in Detroit, on Team Boston. 

“It was the first time I played with other Jewish girls who loved basketball like I do,” she said. 

Last summer she was only female basketball player west of Toronto to play for the Canadian Under 19 National Team in Israel for the Maccabia games, and she played on the Under 17 Provincial Team, traveling to Prince Edward Island to represent Manitoba in the Canada Summer Games.

In 2009, the Gray Academy’s varsity team won the zone 12 high school championship for the first time ever.

“Yael was so proud of her team,” her mother Faith told the Winnipeg Jewish Review. “She was fortunate to play with girls who rose to the opportunity and won most of the tournaments they played in. When the Zone championship game arrived, they were ready for it.”

In 2010, the Gray Academy varsity girls placed 5th overall in the Province in their division.  Kaplan was recognized by the Winnipeg Sun as the 7th best high school basketball player in Manitoba, and was chosen as the top female player of the year in the AAA conference by the Manitoba Basketball Coaches Association.

For the feisty girl who played football at recess with the grade five boys who took notice of her prowess as an athlete, Kaplan has found her true home in the game of basketball. This  straight A student will be realizing her dream of playing college basketball in the fall for the University of Winnipeg.  No doubt, she will bring the same level of skill and enthusiasm to them as she did for all the years she has loved the game.

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