Tia Coulter returned to Brandon on Thursday and she found it to be a little odd.
Last season, Coulter was a fourth-year starter and a star for the Crocus Plainsmen’s varsity girls basketball team. On Thursday, she was a starting forward for the visiting University of Winnipeg Wesmen, who beat the Brandon Bobcats 63-47 in Canada West play at the BU gym.
"It was different, but it was nice to be back," said Coulter. "I was pretty nervous playing in front of my friends and family, but I had a lot of fun. It was nice to see everybody again."
Coulter is among a number of recent Crocus basketball stars to choose not to play with the Bobcats. Danielle DeGagne (North Dakota State University), Josie DeGagne (Dakota College) and current Grade 12 point guard Brittany Wiebe, who recently committed to NDSU, are also part of that list. Although she’s playing two hours away from her parents, who are both Bobcat alumni, Coulter has no regrets and is enjoying her time with the Wesmen.
She has started eight of 11 games as a freshman, coming into Thursday’s game averaging 6.6 points per night, and is tied for 11th in the conference by averaging 6.2 rebounds per game.
The 6-foot-0 forward credits her early success to listening to her coaches.
"I’ve just tried to do what the coaches tell me to do," said Coulter, who admits she has to work harder at the Canada West level as she’s no longer the tallest or most-experienced player. "I work really hard at rebounding, so I guess I bring a bit of that to the team and maybe a variety of different positions I can guard. Sometimes I’m on a guard and sometimes I’m on a post. It depends on what I can do I guess."
Coulter was limited in her court time on Thursday as she got into foul trouble. Official statistics from the game were not available due to computer problems at the BU gym.
Despite being limited on the court, she impressed Bobcats coach Ritchie Jacobson.
"She’s an athletic kid with a strong base," he said. "The sky’s the limit. She has good hands, she can shoot the ball and she just has to put in her time … You’d love to see her in a Bobcat jersey but you’re also happy for her that she’s getting a scholarship at this level and doing good things with her choices. You have to be happy for the kid."
Jacobson was also happy with the debut of first-year guard Sarah Dobie, who joined the Bobcats (0-11) during the Christmas break.
Dobie saw limited time on the court, but Jacobson thought she did everything he asked her to do in her first game with the team.
"We knew that she was going to struggle offensively because you need some time to play with somebody and get used to your sets, but we told her to be active if nothing else," Jacobson said. "(The team wanted Dobie to) give us something on the defensive end on the glass and she did that. We’re happy."
He was also impressed with how his team finished in its loss to the Wesmen.
Brandon fell behind 16-2 in the first quarter, but outscored the Wesmen 33-26 in the second half.
The Bobcats’ bench boss hopes his players will continue to build off that late momentum in the rematch against the Wesmen (6-5) in Winnipeg today.
"We started to do little things," Jacobson said. "We beat them to loose balls, got a stop or a big play. The bench feeds off it and the players on the floor feed off the bench. It’s a game of confidence."