Fourth-year Bobcats veteran Chantel Gaslard works on her free throws in practice earlier this week. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
It’s been more than two seasons since the Brandon University Bobcats women’s basketball team last won a Canada West regular-season game, but they feel like they’re getting closer to ending that skid.
This past off-season was busy for the Bobcats with the hiring of new head coach Novell Thomas, who went out and recruited five new players to join the seven returnees.
At the top of his list was finding a point guard who could do a better job of handling the ball, as the Bobcats led the conference in turnovers last season while going 0-20.
Thomas recruited three new guards in Canadian Mennonite University transfer Carrera Lamoureux, University of Winnipeg College transfer Brittany Boudreau and Maegan MacKay, a high school graduate from Regina.
Thomas knows that controlling the ball will be the key to his team’s success this season, but won’t just rely on his guards to beat the pressure defences he expects from every team this season.
"I’m a firm believer that all five players have to help with breaking the press, so it doesn’t just fall on your point guard or shooting guard," he said. "Your post players will play a part in the post break and your third guard or small forward will play a role in the press break as well."
If the Bobcats can deal with the pressure, then their stars should have a chance to shine.
Aimee Johnston, who led the team with 11.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game as a rookie, is back, as is Jaynell Gillett, who finished second on the team with 7.7 points and 5.3 boards per game.
Both players hope to put up similar, or better, numbers this season, but Thomas doesn’t want the team to rely on that pair too much during the season. If Brandon can get a balanced attack going, Gillett believes the team can accomplish its goal of being competitive.
"We want to just compete with the other teams," said Gillett, who is captaining the team along with Lamoureux this season. "Not necessarily to get wins, but to be out there and compete with other teams and play hard."
The Bobcats have one of the toughest schedules to start the season, with seven of their first eight games to be played on the road.
Their season tips off in Edmonton tonight against the Alberta Pandas, followed by a trip to the University of Manitoba before a home-and-home series with the Winnipeg Wesmen. The Bobcats then head off for a weekend in B.C., before returning to the friendly confines of the new Healthy Living Centre for their final two games before the Christmas break.
Lamoureux, Johnston, Stephanie Haynes, Chantel Gaslard and Elsa Langill are projected to start for the Bobcats tonight, although Thomas admitted that may change before game time as he’s still searching for the mix of players that will get off to the strong start he wants to see.
While there aren’t high hopes for the Bobcats to make a major move up the Canada West standings anytime soon, Thomas believes his players have a lot of potential. He pointed out that the Bobcats aren’t the biggest, fastest or toughest team, but they do have big, tough and fast players and if they all work together, they can get some positive results this season.
Although he would love to get a couple of wins this season, his first goal is to get a great effort from the players.
"It would be nice, but I just want us to play the style of basketball that I’ve been teaching them to play since I started in September," he said. "That’s the biggest thing. I don’t think the team knows how good they are and there’s just been a lot of unfortunate circumstances around the program. We’re looking for that first win, but I’m looking forward to that first good performance. Whether it’s a win or not, I’m looking forward to that first good performance."
Name Position Year Height Hometown
Brittany Boudreau G 1 5-7 Winnipeg
Kaela Cranston G/F 2 5-11 Winnipeg
Sarah Dobie G 2 5-8 Winnipeg
Chantel Gaslard F 4 6-2 Thompson
Jaynell Gillett F 4 6-1 Bonnyville, Alta.
Stephanie Haynes G 2 5-7 Lorette
Aimee Johnston F 2 6-1 Brandon
Alanna Johnston F 3 5-11 Brandon
Carrera Lamoureux G 3 5-6 Winnipeg
Elsa Langill F 1 5-11 Kamloops, B.C.
Maegan MacKay G/F 1 5-10 Regina
Ambrea McDonald-Okoro F 1 6-0 Regina
Head Coach: Novell Thomas (first season). Assistant Coach: Sarah Lopes.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition November 2, 2012