Cassie Cooke became the first member of the Brandon University Bobcats women’s basketball team to ever be named a Canada West conference first-team all-star on Wednesday, but she wasn’t in Brandon to celebrate.
The third-year guard from Westminster, Md., has left Brandon University for the rest of the semester and Bobcats head coach Novell Thomas is not expecting her to return in the fall.
"We’ve had some previous discussion and she needed to be back home, so she’s back at home," Thomas said. "I’m planning and preparing as if she is not (coming back to Brandon next season)."
Cooke had a superb first season with the Bobcats. She led the country in scoring with 519 points — averaging 23.6 per game — and in three-pointers with 64. She was also second in Canadian Interuniversity Sport with 79 steals.
She led all players in Canada West by averaging 36.9 minutes of playing time per game, was third in assists with 4.6 per game, sixth in defensive rebounds with 5.5 per game and 14th with seven rebounds per game. All that helped the Bobcats post a 6-16 record, which is their highest single-season win total in 30 years.
Cooke is the first Bobcat to make a conference all-star team since Patti Wood was a Great Plains conference second-team all-star in the 2000-01 campaign.
Thomas knows losing Cooke is tough, especially since she had two more years of eligibility left, but he has a plan for how to make sure his squad doesn’t regress next season.
"We were short a foreigner this year, so we need our returning players to be better, but we also have to look at ways of getting a second and third import player to go along with Aleah (Bridges) and hopefully they will be able to make up for what Cass was able to do for us," he said. "I believe that’s very doable."
Bridges ran the point for the Bobcats this season. Brandon will also lose fifth-year post Jaynell Gillett to graduation, but Thomas isn’t expecting any other players from his roster to leave the Wheat City.
Although he would have liked to have Cooke for two more seasons, Thomas wishes Cooke the best in accomplishing her goal of playing professionally overseas. He was also glad Brandon got to see her play for one year.
"I’m just happy that we got her for a year because one year is better than no years," he said. "It definitely opened up the eyes for members of our team for what a player can do.
"Even for Bobcat Academy players and younger girls in the area that had a chance to watch her play, I think it’s huge. It was only a year, but it was a year in which many people could see what can be done on the basketball court, which is great."