While growing up, Tia Coulter became ingrained in the historic lore of basketball in Brandon.
She was born into a basketball family where both her parents — Barb and Grant — were Brandon Bobcat alumni. She made the Crocus Plainsmen varsity girls basketball team in her Grade 9 year and was part of that team that won its first ever provincial AAAA high school basketball title. She represented Manitoba at the 2009 Canada Summer Games, was a provincial high school all-star three years in a row and capped her senior season by being named the AAAA girls basketball player of the year and Manitoba’s AAAA girls athlete of the year.
Last year, Coulter decided to leave the Wheat City for the bright lights of Winnipeg to attend university. Despite now living in Winnipeg, the 6-foot forward with the Wesmen women’s basketball team made her way into Brandon’s history books again when she became the first CIS player to score a basket in Canada West conference action at Brandon University’s new Healthy Living Centre, with an easy layup on Saturday night.
Going into BU’s record books wasn’t something Coulter thought much of. Instead, she was happy to see her hometown grow with the addition of the new building and loved the opportunity to play in it.
"I know how excited everyone was, so it was a nice treat for me to come back and play in the nice new facility," said Coulter, who claims to have her dad’s hands, but her mother’s work ethic on the court. "It looks great and I can’t wait for it to be finished so they can get the place packed. … It’s kind of cool (I made the first basket). I didn’t even think about it, but it’s really cool."
Part of the reason the 19-year-old was so nonchalant about the mark is it’s not something she thinks about. Her first year with the Wesmen was spent learning how to play at the Canada West level. She pointed out that staying level-headed during the game and always moving your feet to play tough defence were important lessons she learned while starting 14 of 20 conference games and averaging 5.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game for the Wesmen last season.
This year, Coulter is focused on increasing her shooting percentage from the 29.6 per cent mark she posted last year and improving her defensive play. So far, she’s off to a good start. In six league games this season, three of which she’s started, Coulter is making 47.2 per cent of her shots and is now averaging 7.2 points and 5.0 rebounds per game.
However, Coulter is still trying to figure out what her role on the Wesmen will be. The Wesmen are young with five players in their third or fourth years of eligibility and the other seven players are in their first or second seasons. For most of the season, the Wesmen have been playing all 12 players on their roster and switching up their strategies.
While she’s still focused on developing as a player, there’s nothing Coulter wants more than to make an appearance at nationals. She believes that the Wesmen — currently 2-4 in the Canada West standings — have enough talent to make their way to nationals despite their youth, and Coulter doesn’t want to test her patience to earn that experience.
"I don’t want to wait till next year to try and take this year off," she said. "I want to be good this year and I think we can do it. I hope that we can and we can achieve that goal."