Deane Little scholar-athletes already making their mark on varsity teams

Deane Little scholar-athletes already making their mark on varsity teams

Since 2019, King’s has celebrated the combination of athletic excellence and academic leadership in students with the Debra Deane Little and Robert Little Academic Scholarships for Varsity Athletes. Valued at $5,000 per year and renewable for up to four years, the scholarships are for students who are enrolled in or have completed the Foundation Year Program (FYP), who achieved a high school average at or above 80% and who will be participating in varsity athletics.   

In total, 33 students hold the scholarship, including nine winners in their first year, taking FYP. We spoke with four of them.

Georgia Gavas

In conversation, Georgia Gavas comes across as calmly determined. She is determined to be the best soccer player she can, take the most from the Foundation Year Program (FYP) and her King’s experience, and master the somewhat daunting challenge of writing FYP essays. One of this year’s recipients of the Debra Deane Little and Robert Little Academic Scholarships for Varsity Athletes, she’s just come off her freshman season with the King’s Blue Devils soccer team. Asked about her first game with the team, she says, “I worked super hard and I got to start that game. It was definitely a more fast-paced and aggressive game than I was used to, but I’ve been playing high level soccer in the provincial program and big tournaments since I was twelve and I was prepared. It took me a bit to adjust but I adjusted quickly.”

More than merely adjust, Gavas scored in her first university game.

Born and raised in Halifax, King’s looked ideal. “My aunt took FYP and she loved it. She told me only good things can come from taking it and I can really see that now. It’s teaching me how to think critically and not a lot of people have that opportunity. Because I’m a FYP Science student I’m getting the best of both worlds—I’ve got the small community of King’s and a taste of the five-hundred person classes at Dal.” Gavas plans to major in microbiology and immunology, enroute, possibly, to dental school.

Belonging to Halifax’s vibrant Greek community richly fills out Gavas’s daily life. She works with Met Youth organizing activities promoting Greek culture and religion for local Greek youth. “I love it. It’s how I stay engaged with my community and help keep our heritage alive.”

While her first Blue Devils soccer season was a great success, it ended, unfortunately, on bit of a low note: Gavas was injured in the last ten minutes of the ACAA final game. “I missed out on Nationals but boy did I cheer everyone on.”

Will Patterson

“Will Patterson is unique. He has a high basketball IQ…and he is able to read the floor.” That’s what Luc Stevenson, Head Coach of the UKC Blue Devils basketball team said when he signed Patterson, along with his twin brother Jack, to the team. Patterson, a FYP student and Deane Little Scholarship recipient, fills that out a little: “I’m not the player who puts his head down and dribbles into people,” he explains. “I always pass the ball and tell people to move into certain spaces. I’m more patient than a lot of players. And even if I’m open, sometimes I’ll give the ball up and say no, that’s the better shot.”

Patterson’s arrival at King’s was the result of a rather synchronous confluence of events. His high school basketball coach in Coquitlam, B.C. attended King’s and spoke of FYP and King’s unique culture. Patterson realized FYP would be the ideal fit for him and his brother, both of whom were strong academically and had a love of the classics. Meanwhile, Patterson’s parents had decided to move to Nova Scotia even before the brothers knew about King’s. When Coach Stevenson wanted both Will and Jack, who wanted to play together, for the Blue Devils, they were sold.

Patterson’s first semester at King’s has been, at times, a balancing act with class workload and an intense basketball schedule. “There are aspects that I love…the people I’m meeting. I’m in FYP Science. I’m doing well with my science courses but I’m not always a fan of all the FYP essay writing. Sometimes it feels like Groundhog Day. I’ve just finished one and whoops, here comes another one.”

Speaking of the team, Patterson is measured. “We had a bit of a rough start,” he chuckles. “We’ve played with injuries. We’re a new team and we’re working out our style of play, where to focus on offense and defense. My role is still something I’m adapting to and I’m learning how I can best impact the team. But we have the talent to get there.”

Ariana Nikolaou

While many would say that living in residence is the ideal way to experience your first year at King’s, Ariana Nikolaou might just disagree. The Halifax native, a first-year player on the Women’s Blue Devils soccer team is a Deane Little Scholarship recipient. With her family life, deep roots in the Halifax Greek community, the richness and demands of FYP and a full-on social life with her soccer teammates, she’s more than satisfied with the scope of her King’s experience.

A left winger on the team, Nikolaou, played for her high school team at Halifax Grammar School and the Halifax City Soccer Club. “My first season with the Blue Devils was awesome,” she says. “The team hadn’t done this well in a while and I wasn’t sure we were going to make it as far as we did but we went to Nationals. The team really wanted to come back from how we did last year. Everyone was really dedicated and trying a little bit harder. I assisted on a goal at Nationals. That was definitely the highlight.”

It was playing with the Blue Devils, not FYP, that brought Nikolaou to King’s. “But I love reading and when I saw that FYP was reading great books and writing essays, I knew I would love it. And the tutorials are great, but it can be a bit humbling to hear what everyone has to say,” she laughs. Nikolaou will continue her undergrad at King’s and then do a Masters in Speech Therapy at Dal. “I want to work with kids and contribute to their learning and development and see them succeed in something they’re struggling with.”

Could anything derail her from that path?

“The Halifax Wanderers’ are forming a women’s soccer team. Now that would be awesome.”

Coleton Walker

Coleton Walker is coming off a win. This past October the Men’s Blue Devils soccer team, for which he’s a centre attacking midfielder, became the 2023 ACAA Men’s Soccer Champions. A rookie on the team, Walker is, in his understated way, enthusiastic about his first season. “There were a lot of highlights,” he says. “We had a really high level of play and it was great to have the experience with this quality of players. All of the guys on the team were super supportive. As a rookie to be scoring goals and starting games, playing in finals and winning the league, which we haven’t done in something like eleven years…that was awesome. We only lost one game. These are things I won’t forget.” Walker scored three goals during the regular season and one in Nationals.

A native of Sackville, N.S, Walker, a Deane Little Scholarship recipient, came to King’s with both soccer and academics in his vision. He played for his high school team and trained at the Farias Soccer Academy to take his game next level. And he’s taking FYP which is, of course, equally rigorous, though Walker, as seems to be his way, is taking it in stride. “I like the way FYP is structured with tutorials the day after lectures so you can talk about what you’ve learned. And I like writing the papers. I find that pretty enjoyable. There’s a lot of support available in FYP, a lot of help if you need it. They want you to win.”

Walker plans to major in psychology but his bigger dream is to play professional soccer. He speaks in his measured, steadfast way when asked what has to happen for this to become a reality. “I’ll do the same things I’ve been doing. A lot of work, keep up to date, keep working on my technique, constantly seek better competition. My coaches at King’s have the connections to help me with my journey.” And then? “To play on a team in Europe like Real Madrid. That would be the hardest and the highest point.”

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