Jenna Mae Ellsworth is the best university women’s basketball player in Canada.
The 21-year-old Charlottetown native earned the Nan Copp Award as U Sports player of the year Wednesday night in Ottawa where Ellsworth and her UPEI Panthers teammates begin play today in the national final eight competition against the Ryerson Rams.
Ellsworth, the daughter of Paul and Tracy Ellsworth, is only the second female Panther in the university’s 50-year history to earn a national player of the year honour. Soccer star Amy Connolly was named the top university women’s player in Canada in 2005. Hockey’s Shane MacEachern (1992) and soccer’s Glen Miller (1998) and Ryan Anstey (2006) won men’s player of the year awards.
“It’s unbelievable,” said UPEI’s athletic director Chris Huggan, who has known Ellsworth most of her life. “And it couldn’t happen to a better person. Jenna Mae is an absolute workhorse. She puts in so much time and effort in the off-season in the gym working on her skills and in the fitness centre working on her conditioning.”
Ellsworth, a five-foot-nine guard, was also a first team all-Canadian and the final member of the U Sports top 100 players of the century campaign, which celebrated the centennial anniversary of the university women’s game.
She also received the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) women’s basketball player of the year award and was named defensive player of the year before last week’s championship in Halifax. She becomes only the third AUS player to earn the Nan Copp Award, joining Saint Mary’s Justine Colley, who won it in back-to-back years in 2012-13 and 2013-14, and Acadia’s Paloma Anderson, who received the recognition in 2017-18.
“She does not care about any individual awards,” Huggan said. “As much as she’ll be flattered to get this recognition … she is motivated to be her best and for her team to be their best. An AUS championship was not going to get away from her and you saw that on the floor when Acadia made a run (in Sunday’s final) and cut it to three, Jenna Mae just said, ‘this is not happening’.”
Ellsworth, a fourth-year Panther, led the team to a 17-3 record and top spot in the AUS during the regular season. She filled the stat sheet on a nightly basis, averaging 20.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.1 steals per game while playing a leadership role on and off the court.
She volunteers at basketball camps, is actively involved in the reading with Pride program at Spring Park Elementary School and is always willing to assist in any community engagement activity.
“She is just genuinely a great person and an absolutely great ambassador for the university and for sport in general,” Huggan said. “She’s a terrific female role model.”
Ellsworth was a star for power-packed Colonel Gray Colonels high school teams coached by Chris Annett. She committed to the Panthers in January 2016 after speaking with multiple universities.
Her mother, Tracy, played basketball and field hockey for the Panthers in the mid-1980s and coached the women’s hoops squad from 1993-94 to 2003-04, winning the program’s last AUS title in 1998 before Sunday’s victory over Acadia. She is a member of the university’s sports hall of fame.
Jenna Mae played soccer and basketball for the university for the first three seasons before concentrating solely on the hardwood this season.
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