By Josh Hui
Week after week, Sydney Hurlburt consistently shoots three-pointers – and a lot of them. Hurlburt has always been a sharpshooter in her time with the Ooks and now she’s in their record books. She hit two three-pointers in a 69-50 Ooks victory over the GPRC Wolves Saturday afternoon setting a new record for most threes made by a female Ooks basketball player at 162 and continuing to grow that record with every game she plays.
Hurlburt says that three-pointers have been fairly natural for her rather than something she goes out of her way to work on. In terms of the record, it turns out she barely knew just how many times she’s connected from deep.
“[The record] obviously means a lot. It’s an accomplishment I’ll take with me after I graduate. Knowing that makes me pretty proud of the skill I have but I don’t focus on it at all. I honestly just found out about it a week ago. I just want to play my best basketball every time I step on the court,” says Hurlburt.
Hurlburt’s answer echoes NAIT Ooks head coach Todd Warnick in that while the team is excited for her, they tend to focus less on personal accomplishments and more on playing well as a team.
Since Sydney Hurlburt joined the team, her role has increased every year and with that, her production has also gone up. She leads this Ooks team in scoring for the year with just over 13 points per game. While she may be the team’s leading scorer, Coach Warnick doesn’t just lean on Hurlburt for her scoring.
“She was a devastating three-point shooter but in her first year, she didn’t get a lot of playing time at the beginning of the year because she didn’t defend anybody. We got on her and after her and she learned how to guard. She’s at that point where she’s one of the best defenders, I think, in the league,” said Warnick.
Now in her fourth season, she is part of a talented and experienced backcourt with her co-captain Leah Vandenboogaard. Vandenboogaard explains their connection on the floor is built from their confidence in each other.
“When I have her on the floor with me, I always know that she’ll be in the right spot in the right position and I always know she’ll have my back because we’ve built a lot of trust playing together,” said Vandenboogaard.
They’ve had plenty of time to build that trust on and off the court as they shared the exact same class schedule last semester.
Sydney grew up in St. Albert and started playing basketball at the age of five. She fell in love with the game early and shined as a member of the Paul Kane Blues under the watchful eye of her mom and coach: Karen. Hurlburt was so dominant that she earned the award of top female athlete two years in a row and she credits that development to the woman who was with her all throughout her basketball journey.
“My mom has definitely developed me into the player that I am today. She was my coach all the way up until [NAIT] so I wouldn’t be where I am without her,” said Hurlburt.
Sydney caught the attention of Ooks head coach Todd Warnick who recruited her as early as grade 11.
“She represents what kind of person you want to recruit. We emphasize that the players we recruit, when I talk to them, that who they are as people is a thousand times more important than who they are as basketball players. I can teach you how to play basketball, I can’t teach you how to be a better person,” said Warnick.
For Hurlburt, NAIT provided a chance to play close to home and to be part of a family within the locker room. She described the culture of the women’s basketball team as “electric.”
After being a part of an experienced team her first couple years, she is one of the main leaders for this year’s young team and according to Warnick, she’s pretty easy to follow.
“She’s somebody who keeps us settled. She’s able to bring the girls in, they respect her and admire her, they try to emulate the things she does. It’s easy to get her to do the right things because she’s always trying to do the right things,” said Warnick.
Sydney brings her leadership and hard work to the classroom as a fourth-year business student. She was hesitant about what she wanted to do at first but has found her passion in the world of business. In fact, Hurlburt says she has grown as a leader through the program and hopes to pursue an opportunity in marketing when she is done at NAIT.
Hurlburt has racked up many other accomplishments in her time as an Ook, starting with winning the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference championship and a national bronze medal as a rookie, being highlighted as an all-conference player twice and last year’s Ooks team MVP. She’s hungry for more success with the team this year and has one more year of eligibility coming up.
When asked if she models her game after one player, she said that no one player comes to mind.
“Everyone calls me the Steph Curry of NAIT, but I just try to live my life,” said Hurlburt.
She’s not Steph Curry 2.0 – she’s Sydney Hurlburt 1.0 and she wouldn’t have it any other way.