Hall of Famer
HELEN NORTHUP ALEXANDER
Inducted in 2017
The Commercial Graduates Basketball Club was the formal name of the Edmonton Grads team, coached by Percy Page, based at McDougall Commercial High School in Edmonton. Beginning as a women’s high-school team, the Grads ruled women's basketball from 1915 to 1940, playing 522 official games in Canada, the United States, and in Europe, winning 502 and only losing 20 for an average of 96.2%, and winning 49 out of a possible 51 domestic titles. They never lost a series in the Underwood International Championships, winning 23 times.
In 1924, the Fédération Sportive Feminine Internationale declared the Grads World Champions and they represented Canada at four consecutive Olympic Games from 1924 to 1936. They won all 27 of their Olympic matches, but because women's basketball was not yet an official event, there were no medals awarded. The inclusion of basketball in the Olympic Games occurred for men in 1936, but not for women until forty years later in 1976.
The Grads won three North American Championship series in 1934, 1935, and 1936, had two consecutive winning streaks of 147 and 78 games respectively, and were named World Champions from 1937 to 1940. At the time of their retirement, the Grads held 108 titles at local, provincial, western, national, international, and world levels, becoming a sporting dynasty whose winning record remains unparalleled by any team in any sport, male or female. Truly champions, the Grad’s success can be attributed to natural ability, strong leadership, dedication, fair play, and determination.
During the Grads' 25-year career, there were only 38 players listed in the official records. The Grads' sporting success was accompanied by the respect they earned in Canada and abroad and consequently silenced the critics who claimed that strenuous activity could be harmful to women. Perhaps the finest compliment came from the inventor of basketball, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame Honoured Member, Dr. James Naismith, who called them "the finest basketball team that ever stepped out on a floor."
Helen Northup Alexander played for the Edmonton Gradss from 1934-1940; usually the smallest player on the court at 5’2”, Alexander made up for her height with her speed, accuracy, ball-handling skills, and deadly shot. Her shooting abilities helped her average 9.7 points per game.