The Brandon University Bobcats women’s basketball team isn’t focused on wins and losses this season.
Instead, the team, which finished 0-24 last season, will work to develop its young players and strive to become competitive in the always-tough Canada West conference.
"A couple things we talked about already are our fitness level and our ability to take care of the basketball," Bobcats head coach Ritchie Jacobson said. "At the Canada West level, you really have to take care of the ball. We’re going to see lots of pressure and (will have to) be able to carry the ball. We have to be able to run with the opposition and match their intensity level for 40 minutes.
"Those are big things that we’re working on and that we’re stressing all the time."
The Bobcats program was left in limbo this summer when former head coach Jaime Hickson decided in July not to return to the team. Jacobson took over the team shortly after that on an interim basis for this season, which did not give him a lot of time to recruit new players who could help the team get back into the win column.
However, Jacobson, along with assistant coach Tom Price, managed to convince high school standouts Kaela Cranston and Stephanie Haynes to join the Bobcats this season after graduating from St. Mary’s High School in Winnipeg. They also brought some experience to the team with the additions of Kate Helgeson, a third-year post player from Lansford, N.D., and Raisa Rybinski, a fourth-year transfer from Lakeland College.
With five of the 11 players on the Bobcats’ roster in their first or second year of eligibility, Jacobson is focused on making sure his team works hard and strives to be competitive, although he would like to win a few games this season.
"We definitely want to win games … but the big picture is to get the kids to understand what it means to prepare yourself at this level and be ready night in and night out," he said. "A big part of that is being fundamentally sound and developing the skills as sharp as we can and getting as strong physically and our conditioning as (good as) it can be to compete every night at the Canada West level."
Jacobson believes the return of Jayla Bousquet will help set the example for his club. Bousquet is heading into her fifth and final CIS season after missing all of last year due to knee injury, spending the season developing her coaching skills as the head coach of the Vincent Massey Vikings.
The 5-foot-11 Portage la Prairie native is hoping to translate her high-school coaching experience into being an on-court coach for some of the Bobcats young players.
"Being the fifth-year player, I assume my role as being a leader on the team and the other girls looking up to me," said Bousquet, who decided to rejoin the Bobcats once she heard Jacobson was taking over as head coach. "... I see myself in that coaching role a little bit, just making the younger girls better and developing their skills from me playing four years already."
With a young team, Jacobson said his players will focus on working as hard as they can in preparation for their pre-season opener in Winnipeg at the Canadian Mennonite University tournament Oct. 14-16. They will open their Canada West regular season Nov. 5 when they host the Calgary Dinos.
"We want to develop the young people so they can develop into a role where they can give back and produce and ultimately lead," Jacobson said. "In terms of numbers (of wins), we don’t have a goal that way. We just want to develop our young people and be able to compete in every possession."
Player Position Height Year Hometown
Jayla Bousquet G/F 5-11 5 Portage
Madison Bradbury G 5-9 2 Winnipeg
Kaela Cranston G/F 5-11 1 Winnipeg
Chantel Gaslard P 6-2 3 Thompson
Jaynell Gillett P/F 6-2 3 Bonnyville, Alta.
Kalena Green G 5-6 1 Carberry
Player Position Height Year Hometown
Stephanie Haynes G 5-7 1 Winnipeg
Kate Helgeson P 6-0 3 Lansford, N.D.
Aimee Johnson F 6-1 1 Brandon
Alanna Johnson F 6-0 3 Brandon
Raisa Rybinski G/F 5-10 4 Kinistino, Alta.
Head coach: Ritchie Jacobson.
Assistant coaches: Tom Price, Sarah Lopes.