Brandon’s Aimee Johnston has gone from having no pressure on her going into her first season with the Brandon University Bobcats women’s basketball team to everyone having extremely high expectations of her.
Last season, the 6-foot-1 forward came fresh out of high school to play Canadian Interuniversity Sport basketball and didn’t expect to get a lot of court time. Instead, the Vincent Massey graduate led the Bobcats by averaging 32.3 minutes of court time, 11.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.
New Bobcats head coach Novell Thomas expects Johnston to put up similar numbers this season, but knows it won’t be as easy. All the other teams have seen what Johnston can do and Thomas expects them to focus their defensive game plan on stopping her when BU opens its Canada West conference regular season against the Alberta Pandas in Edmonton on Nov. 2.
"(Other teams focusing on her) was something that I brought to her attention a couple weeks ago when we were in training camp," Thomas said. "We do have some other weapons this year, so that will help with a little bit of the scoring. But we still expect her to be our leading rebounder and our leading scorer."
Johnston started seeing teams focus on trying to stop her during the second half of last season. While her numbers dropped a little bit in that time frame, she found other ways to help the team.
With more attention on her, Johnston found that Jaynell Gillett and Chantel Gaslard stepped up in the post to provide more offence.
While Thomas expects Johnston to lead his team in scoring, it’s not a goal the 19-year-old has set for herself. She just wants to do anything she can to help the team be successful and improve on Brandon’s 0-20 regular-season record from last year.
"(I want to) still remain a contributing member of the team and get opportunities for everyone else and make everyone on the team better," said Johnston. "(Averaging a double-double) would be nice. That would be a plus, but as long as we’re succeeding as a team and succeeding in the goals we set for ourselves, then numbers don’t matter. We’re just going to be playing it by goals."
One thing Johnston admits she needs to work on is being smarter with the ball. She led the team with 146 turnovers last season, but said most of her bad decisions came from lack of experience. Her goal is to cut her turnovers at least in half this season.
If she can do that and find a way to continue having success offensively, then Thomas believes Johnston may find herself in the Bobcats record books one day.
"Some people thrive on expectations and some people don’t. We’ll see where Aimee nets out," he said. "I think she has a work ethic that usually lends itself to success. I’ve told her, and I’ve been pretty vocal about it in some of the clinics that we’ve done, that she’s one of hardest workers and I wouldn’t be surprised that, by the end of it, she’s one of our all-time leading scorers to ever play on the (BU) women’s basketball team, just because of her work ethic."
The Bobcats head to Winnipeg today to compete in the Canadian Mennonite University Tournament, opening this afternoon against the host Blazers.