That national tournament run in 2014, Aieisha’s senior season, was a thriller. After seeing their championship hopes derailed with a hard-fought semifinal loss to the powerhouse Windsor Lancers – who were on their way to their fourth straight national crown – the Cascades bounced back in the bronze medal game to defeat the Saskatchewan Huskies 69-57 to clinch the podium finish.
Aieisha registered eight points and five assists in her final university game, and Anthony calls it the best-managed game he and Al ever coached together. Beyond that, he’d had his usual courtside seat to watch his daughter put the finishing touches on a playing career that is unquestionably one of the greatest in UFV women’s basketball program history.
“There were so many proud moments over the five years, not just with our team, but watching her maturity and how she carried herself throughout those years,” he says.
“Not many athletes at the university level can say their parent was at every one of their games for five years, and he got in for free!” Aieisha echoes with a chuckle. “It was amazing that he got to share that with me.
“When you’re in it, you don’t really realize how special it is. But I feel very, very fortunate.”
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From the moment during her Grade 12 year when she decided to sign with the Cascades, Aieisha always knew she wanted to join the coaching staff one day.
“I never envisioned going to a university for five years, and then never coming back,” she explains. “I wanted to go somewhere where I could become a part of a community, and keep giving back after I’d graduated.”
So after wrapping up her athletic eligibility in the spring of 2014, Aieisha was back on the Cascades’ bench that fall while completing her kinesiology degree, joining her dad on the coaching staff. While Anthony stepped away from the program in 2015 after investing a decade in the Cascades (both varsity and Junior), Aieisha has continued the family’s ongoing legacy of building the program.
She hasn’t been an official member of the coaching staff for all of her seven post-playing-career years – she took a two-year break, for instance, as she earned her registered massage therapist (RMT) credentials. But her impact on the program has been uninterrupted – even when her schedule did not allow her to be at practice, she’s served as a mentor for Cascades point guards, available to chat or break down game tape at any time.
In recent years she’s rejoined the coaching staff on a more formal basis, even reorganizing her professional life to do so. She lives in Vancouver and works there two days a week; the other three weekdays, she runs her RMT practice out of Iron Cycle Club in Abbotsford, and structures her appointments around Cascades practice times. While she hasn’t been around the varsity team as much this year due to COVID-19, she’ll be a key part of the relaunch of the Junior Cascades club program this spring after a multi-year hiatus.
“When I look back at the life I’ve had and all the people in my life, the one common denominator is basketball,” she says. “I’ve seen so much of the world because of basketball, and I’d say 90 per cent of my friends I met playing basketball or within the community somehow. It’s such an integral part of my life, it would be weird not to be involved and just kind of let it go. I just want to keep giving back and making that happen for someone else.”
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In discussing the Luykens’ contributions to the Cascades, Al Tuchscherer tends to circle back to the word ‘mentor.’
That mentoring hasn’t just been limited to the student-athletes, either. Al considers Anthony a role model in the area of parenting – Aieisha is 10 years older than Deanna Tuchscherer, Al’s eldest, and during their many in-depth personal chats on airport layovers or club-team bus trips, Al would pick his coaching counterpart’s brain on what worked and what didn’t at certain ages as he’d raised his daughter.
The Luykens’ influence at UFV also underscores the impact of diversity on a coaching staff. Anthony, for instance, took it upon himself to connect with Black players in the Cascades basketball program, both from the men’s and women’s teams. Thanksgivings at the Luyken household, in those days, were an open-door affair, with Cascades athletes from out-of-province dropping by the house throughout the day to grab a plate of turkey and mashed potatoes, and hang out with ‘Pops’ Luyken and the family.
“I just felt that oftentimes they were looking for some level of mentorship – looking for someone to bounce a few ideas off of,” Anthony explains. “Culturally, as Black people, you tend to acknowledge each other and drift together, and you tend to communicate on things that are going on in your life that it’s hard to describe to someone else.
“A lot of them were far away from home, far away from parents. They just needed, I guess, that Pops view. And I was willing to do that, because I thought it was important.”
In similar fashion, Aieisha shared powerfully with the women’s basketball team last summer in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minn. and the ensuing Black Lives Matter protests. In team Zoom meetings, athletes and coaches shared how they were educating themselves on systemic racism, reflecting on books and films they were engaging with to broaden their understanding. In that context, Aieisha spoke up and shared with the group her unique perspective as a biracial woman, and how Floyd’s murder had caused her to re-evaluate how her racialized identity impacted her on a day-to-day basis.
A BIPOC individual on that Zoom call contacted Aieisha as soon as it was over: “I feel the same way you do.”
“One, that made me feel normal, and two, it made me realize that this is the reason why we have these conversations, because you don’t know who else is feeling the same things,” Aieisha says. “It was just really cool that our team has an environment where a coach can feel comfortable sharing that with a player, and players can feel comfortable sharing amongst themselves. It was a really powerful time.”
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