The court where she ended her high school basketball playing days will be the same one on which Tia Coulter begins her university career.
The Grade 12 standout for the Crocus Plainsmen varsity girls will stay close to home to play her post-secondary ball, telling the Brandon Sun on Tuesday that Tanya McKay's University of Winnipeg Wesmen are the right team for her.
"I had a great experience with Crocus the last four years, but four years is quite a long time, so I'm definitely ready for something new," Coulter said less than a week after the Plainsmen lost in the 4A semifinal at the U of W's Duckworth Centre. "I think about it every day. I'm really excited."
Coulter, a 6-foot forward, was an all-star at the 4A provincial championship, where the Plainsmen lost in the semifinal to the Oak Park Raiders last Thursday. She will join a young Wesmen team that will have seven returnees entering their second or third years of eligibility. She's familiar with much of the roster, having played against many of the players in high school or competed with them in her years with the provincial program. Among them is freshman Stephanie Kleysen, a runner-up for the national rookie of the year, who averaged 8.6 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, a mark that led the Canada West. Having seen the breakout year Kleysen had, Coulter knows McKay is not shy about letting her rookies see the floor.
"Having played against someone who did so well this year it just gives you that confidence that I can do it too," Coulter said. "It's not really pressure. It's just (realizing) you don't have to sit on the bench for a majority of the year, you can get out there too. You just have to show your stuff and work hard."
Coulter said the proximity to home and the familiarity she has with the players and the coaching staff -- McKay and assistant Tami Pennell coached her with Team Manitoba -- were major factors in choosing U of W. McKay told Coulter she would likely play one of the two forward spots, meaning she'll have to be able to guard bigs as well as develop the quickness to defend guards.
"I've played against or with every player on the team except for maybe one or two players," she said. "So obviously that is comforting but, at the same time, I know they have that year on me and they've played together.
"I had a taste of what Tami and Tanya are like over the summer and what they expect ... but I'm definitely going to have to get tougher and be able to guard some bigger players than myself."
Coulter's mom Barb, who has coached her with the Plainsmen, was also encouraged by the U of W program.
"Tanya and Tami know what she can do and they're definitely expecting her to fill some of the athletic spots that they need to fill," Barb Coulter said. "They're very good and I think very professional with kids. They really care about the kids and do a good job of working with them not only as people but also as athletes."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 23, 2011 B2