First-year head coach Novell Thomas guided the Brandon University women’s basketball team to improvements in several statistical areas, but the Bobcats suffered through a third straight winless season. (FILE PHOTO)
Novell Thomas took over the Brandon University Bobcats women’s basketball team last spring with the goal of rebuilding the program.
Everyone knew it would be a slow and painful process. The team made a few steps forward this season, but not enough for the Bobcats to avoid their third straight winless Canada West campaign, which extended the program’s conference losing streak to 67 games. It’s with them that we start the annual year-end reports.
After two seasons of just trying to have a team to put on the court, the Bobcats’ primary focus once Thomas took over as head coach this season was cutting into Brandon’s abysmal -43.7 point differential from the 2011-12 campaign, and they did just that. The Bobcats scored 3.8 more points per game and allowed 10 fewer points per game this season, although they still averaged a league-low 42.1 points for and gave up 72.0 points against.
The Bobcats also improved their field-goal shooting by 2.1 percentage points, while cutting their opponents’ shooting efficiency by 2.2 percentage points. Brandon, however, didn’t have a standout scorer with Carrera Lamoureux leading the way with seven points per game. Jaynell Gillett, Chantel Gaslard and Aimee Johnston all averaged at least six points per game.
Thomas is glad to see improvements in those statistical categories, but he would have liked to have seen even bigger jumps.
"We did have some small wins and I think the statistical improvements are a step in the direction where we need to be, but in terms of steps forward, getting those statistical results was a step but we need to make a huge step," he said. "I expect the take another huge step in all those statistical categories again and look to see where we net out at the end of the season."
Once again, the Bobcats proved to be a young group last season. Gillett and Gaslard were the only active players in their fourth year of eligibility and everyone else was in their first three. Raisa Rybinski was in her fifth year but redshirted the season.
With such a young team, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Bobcats led the conference in turnovers, with 610 in their 22 games. However, Thomas refuses to accept the team’s youth as a reason since the majority of players have received ample playing time in previous seasons.
"I think it’s the inability to read situations and react in a manner that is conservative as opposed to more aggressive," he said. "Things are happening quickly. … We tried to provide different options within our offence in hopes of minimizing some of the turnovers, but they’re still high."
Thomas knew it would be a gradual rebuilding process, but he tried to get it started in his first recruiting class. He brought in Lamoureux from Canadian Mennonite University and she made an immediate impact by starting all 22 games, leading the team in scoring and greatly improving the Bobcats at point guard.
Regina’s Maegan MacKay and Ambrea McDonald-Okoro as well as Elsa Langill from Kamloops, B.C., all averaged about eight minutes of playing time and did some good things in their first year with the team.
Brittany Boudreau, a second-year guard, never got the chance to play. She redshirted due to off-season knee surgery. Aleah Bridges, a point guard from California, joined the team after the Christmas break and redshirted the second semester.
However, Thomas isn’t sure a combination of the new recruits and the seven players who returned this season will prove to be enough of a foundation to take the team in the right direction.
"I actually don’t think we have the building blocks in place," he said. "I think we have some nice pieces and as long as those pieces continue to grow and develop and improve, they might become building blocks. Right now, I don’t believe that’s the case."
"There’s a lot of work to be done," he continued. "When you don’t win a game in conference play, you have to expect changes and additions and there will be."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 15, 2013