Novell Thomas has signed his first recruit as the new head coach of the Brandon University Bobcats women’s basketball team.
Five-foot-11 forward Ambrea McDonald-Okoro, 17, of Winston Knoll Collegiate in Regina has signed her letter of intent to join the Bobcats this fall, the first of three recruits Thomas hopes to finalize over the next week.
"I got to meet Coach Thomas in February and he was very nice and I liked what he said, what he was planning on doing with the program, and I just thought it would be a good opportunity for me to improve," McDonald-Okoro said via telephone last night. "And also, the class sizes are small and I like that, and my brother (Robert) goes to the (ACC) college in Brandon, so I will know somebody, which helps."
The 36-year-old Thomas, who was officially hired as Bobcats head coach on Feb. 3 and arrived in Brandon on April 3, was happy to have McDonald-Okoro commit to the program.
"It’s very special," said Thomas, who is looking for a new home after his wife and children arrived in the Wheat City this week. "I’ve told them the situation here and what I planned on doing and how I planned on correcting it, so it’s a really good feeling. And I will always remember Ambrea for being that first recruit, that first player that said, ‘You know what? I’m not worried about the past and I like what you told me about the future.’"
McDonald-Okoro, who made a campus visit to BU on April, 14, is a former Saskatchewan provincial team member who Thomas believes will be able to score and defend in the post at the CIS level.
"I think first and foremost, she’s a great student and I think her work ethic is there," said Thomas, who first started recruiting McDonald-Okoro back in February. "She’s a workhorse, so I think she will be like a sponge and kind of soak up everything that we teach her and all the different tricks that we can communicate to her in hopes of her being a solid contributor for us."
McDonald-Okoro liked the possibility of playing right away.
"I just want to get better and help the team," she said. "I would rather have the opportunity to learn stuff in games and experience those types of situations in games, rather than just practice (in the first year)."
Thomas is also trying to land a couple of American imports and hopes to announce a pair of perimeter players over the next week.
"I just have some signatures that need to be made and there will be two more definitely in the next week," Thomas said. "… It will be some perimeter help to help us address our ball-handling issues and some of our perimeter three-point shooting."
Thomas, who plans to have plenty of competition for roster spots in training camp, has lost just two of the 12 players who finished last season with a Bobcats team that went 0-20 in the Canada West Conference. Fifth-year senior forward Jayla Bousquet has graduated, while guard Madison Bradbury will not return after an injury-plagued sophomore season.