The Brandon University Bobcats women’s basketball team has landed its first big recruit of the off-season.
Cassie Cooke, an all-Canadian and the Atlantic University Sport conference MVP in the 2011-12 season, has committed to join BU this fall. Bobcats head coach Novell Thomas has high expectations for Cooke, considering she led Canadian Interuniversity Sport in scoring with 471 points — starting 14 of 20 games and averaging 23.6 points — in conference play with the Cape Breton University Capers two season’s ago. Thomas believes the 5-foot-9 import shooting guard can make an instant impact on a Bobcat team that averaged a conference-low 42.1 points per game in Canada West play last season.
"Very excited," Thomas said. "Obviously when a player of her calibre comes your way, you can’t let them go. This is the type of player who can really raise the bar immediately for the other players on the team. Instantly, she’s almost like a role model for our younger players and current players in terms of how hard she works and where she sets the bar for herself."
Thomas is looking for Cooke to be a leader, a top scorer and a ball distributor. She comes to BU through a failed recruiting attempt a few years ago when the late Henry Champ, BU’s former chancellor, tried to recruit a player who opted to play women’s basketball at another institution. However, that recruit is friends with Cooke, and recommended Brandon to Cooke when she started looking for a new school to play for.
After her outstanding 2011-12 campaign, Cooke was taken off Cape Breton’s roster following the next pre-season for an undisclosed violation of team rules. The Westminster, Md., native eventually contacted Thomas, who talked extensively with her about the issue she had in the Maritimes and what she could bring to the Bobcats.
Thomas is confident a similar incident won’t happen in Brandon and Cooke, who’s heading into her third year of eligibility, is excited to get back on the court.
"I plan on coming to Brandon with my CIS experience and also with the goal of completing my degree and growing as a player," she said in a media release.
Cooke joins point guard Aleah Bridges, who redshirted with the Bobcats last season, as Brandon’s two American imports. That is the limit under the current Canada West rules, although the conference’s coaches will discuss increasing it to three at the upcoming coaches meeting this fall.
Thomas said he will continue to look for a third import, but if he doesn’t find one that can immediately impact the program, then he’ll keep it at two.
He is very happy to see a backcourt starting to come together with the likes of Cooke and Bridges being supported by last year’s starting point guard Carrera Lamoureux as well as an improving Kaela Cranston.
However, he’s not done recruiting yet. Thomas, who says he has to be the hardest working recruiter in the CIS right now as he rebuilds the Bobcats, is still looking to add more depth to the backcourt and find some big players who can help the Bobcats gain some presence in the paint as well.
"The big thing for me in the upcoming season is to make sure we’re athletic across the board," he said. "We’re still waiting on a few recruits. I like the way things are shaping up. We’ll continue to improve the team where we can."
Cooke is the Bobcats’ fifth off-season recruit. Brandon’s Stephanie Hunter, Boissevain’s Kinsley Ransom as well as Hamiota twin sisters Keegan and Kailan Robinson signed their letters of intent last week.