A lot has changed in Raizel Guinto’s life since she left Winnipeg in 2017 to pursue her dream.  But her overwhelming love for basketball hasn’t, and that’s good news for the Winnipeg Wesmen.

One of the most talented players ever produced in Manitoba, the NCAA Division I transfer has announced she will return home and play for Winnipeg, committing to Alyssa Cox’s UWinnipeg women’s team as part of the 2022 recruiting class.

She will be immediately eligible and have one year remaining after spending four seasons at D1 Louisiana Tech in Ruston, La.

“Winnipeg has always been home,” she said. “This is where my home is and this is my foundation.

“I guess I just don’t say it enough how much I appreciate my village, my support system, my family, my friends, my parents.

“Just being able to come home, after being gone for four years where it was so hard … for people to make it to games. I’m going to be so much more excited to just see my dad, my son, my boyfriend, my mom, my brother, my grandparents on the sideline for the first time in what feels like years.”

Guinto was a heralded recruit coming out of Sisler High School where she led the Spartans to back-to-back provincial championships before setting off to pursue her dream of playing at the highest university level in North America.

At Louisiana Tech, Guinto averaged 7.7 points, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game while shooting better than 35 per cent from three over four years. She flourished in her final two seasons, starting every game as a senior in 2020-21 and being named Conference USA’s Sixth Player of the year as a junior in ’19-20.

After playing out her NCAA eligibility, Guinto got on with life. She had a baby son, Cairo, in August 2021 and returned home to her friends and family in Winnipeg, but the pull of the game was still there, as was the voice of a former — now current — teammate.

“(Kyana Giles) was just like … ‘It would be the icing on the cake of our basketball careers’ because we had been playing basketball together since we were seven, eight years old,” she said. “She was that bug in my ear since she transferred over (in 2019) and then I guess it really kinda clicked more after I had given birth. I was playing in a senior women’s league and I realized I still have some left in me.

“My initial thoughts were just coming home to have my son and just be a mom …

“But I realized I wasn’t ready to let go of the game yet, and I’m glad it wasn’t ready to let go of me.”

Guinto will also have the once-in-a-lifetime chance of playing alongside her younger sister, Raia, another Sisler standout who committed to the Wesmen earlier in the off-season and will play her freshman year in 2022-23.

“I’m really excited about it because we’ve never gotten that opportunity before,” Raizel said. “There’s definitely going to be attitude, lots of attitude, thrown back and forth … but it’s going to be fun. I’m excited and I know she’s excited too, because she’s passionate about the game and I see it in her when she plays, so I’m just excited to be that leader for her as a sister and a teammate and just to see her grow in this short span of time that I have to be with her in the locker-room, on the sideline, on the bench, on the court with her.”

Four years of D1 ball did plenty for the elder Guinto, she said, not the least of which was challenging her mentally and emotionally in a way she hadn’t experienced prior to heading south for Ruston, La.

“I would say it broke me down and built me,” she said. “I found out so much more about myself as a person and a basketball player. I got pushed to my limits and I’m glad to say I didn’t let it break me. It definitely made me more confident, more powerful. I feel like I found myself when I went to Ruston.”

Cox is excited to add a top-tier talent to an already experienced group of guards in Giles, Robyn Boulanger and Anna Kernaghan.

“We look forward to having a veteran point guard on the floor whose experience and leadership will be an asset to our team,” Cox said. “Raizel sees the floor exceptionally well and can deliver passes that will elevate our level of play this year and help develop our youth. Her ability to score, pass, and defend along with her vocal presence on the court will be exciting to watch this season.”

Source: https://wesmen.ca/news/2022/8/15/womens-basketball-wbb-wesmen-add-d1-transfer-raizel-guinto.aspx

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