Throughout her entire career, Salmon Arm’s Joanne Sargent became known for her tireless work ethic and focussed determination every time she led her teams onto the basketball court.

It wasn’t always that way.

Sargent is the first to admit she was far from a hoop natural. Born in McBride, BC, Sargent was raised in Terrace until moving to Salmon Arm at age 12. There, in the small-town women’s basketball hotbed she fell in love with the game, but early on the self-described ‘whirling dervish’ was all unpolished speed and unharnessed energy.

“It took a while to tame that down,” she admitted. “I was a bit of a maniac.”

Slamming breakaway lay-ups off the backboard wasn’t uncommon.

Legendary Salmon Arm Jewels high school coach Al Bianco saw the hard-working fire in Sargent and pushed her to become the best player she could be. She ran stairs, did hours of extra shooting, and learned to rein in and direct this inner passion to unstoppable winning effect. It began with the Jewels, as Sargent led the squad to four straight BC high school girls provincial final appearances and three-straight BC championships from 1965-67.

After a year refining her game in Vancouver’s Senior A league, Sargent joined the UBC Thunderettes in 1968. With Norm Vickery and Ken Shields coaching, and playing alongside several national team members including Kathy Shields, Sargent and the Thunderettes won three national championships in four years. The 1969-70 championship in particular stands out, as the Thunderettes were not only university champions, but the top Senior A women’s team in all of Canada as well.

In 1970, Sargent’s strong play earned her selection to the Canadian national team. Her unrelenting work ethic combined with an uncanny ability to orchestrate plays on the court with a Steve Nash-like vision made her a national team mainstay for the next six years.

Sargent’s arrival coincided with the global expansion of the women’s game, which allowed her to travel and play games around the world as far afield as Eastern Europe and Asia. She helped Canada to two fifth-place finishes at the Pan American Games in 1971 and 1975, as well as two appearances at the world championships, which included a tenth-place Canadian finish in 1971.

The highlight of her national team turn of duty came captaining the Canadian women’s basketball team at the 1976 Olympic Games on home soil in Montreal. Facing tough competition, the Canadian women played their hearts out to finish sixth overall. Sargent found a spot in the Olympic record books by setting a new mark for most assists in a single game with 14 versus Czechoslovakia. Her record stood for more than twenty years.

Over her career, Sargent led numerous Vancouver teams to BC and Canadian championships, picking up more MVP awards than anyone can recall. She remains an in-demand player with Masters teams all over North America to this day.

Perhaps the biggest compliment on Sargent’s impact on the game comes from Bev Smith, another BC basketball luminary and fellow BC Sports Hall of Famer, who said, “Joanne, by herself, re-defined the way girls could and should play the game.”

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

Sargent is also inducted in the UBC Sports Hall of Fame. For her UBC biography, please visit