Novell Thomas couldn’t have been happier with his first camp as Brandon University Bobcats head coach.
Thomas, who took over as the Bobcats women’s basketball team’s bench boss two weeks ago, held an open identification camp Saturday morning at the BU gym, with 11 players from Manitoba and Saskatchewan showing up to scrimmage and be put through the paces.
"I was very happy, especially for the first year of me running it," Thomas said. "We had five planning (to come out) and two maybes and 11 showed up. It was great to see such numbers. … We had quite a range in terms of skill. Some were really good at shooting and some were really good at dribbling and a few were good at doing both, which was great."
The players’ reason for coming out were as different as their skill levels.
Taylor Ward, a Grade 12 student who played point guard and on the wing with the Elton Sabres this season, attended the camp to gain some experience and to hopefully earn a chance to play at BU next season instead of at a college.
Meanwhile, Jill Giesbrecht, a Grade 11 student who led the Vincent Massey Vikings in scoring this season, wanted to make sure Thomas knew who she was and hopes he’ll watch out for her in the future.
"I just wanted to get some exposure," Giesbrecht said.
"Playing at Massey in Brandon, we don’t get a lot of exposure at big tournaments, so I decided to let Novell see who I am since he’s new around here and get some good competition in between."
Both Giesbrecht and Ward were impressed with the drills that were run and the quality of players who showed up at the BU gym.
"It was good," Ward said. "It was competitive and we got a lot of good drills in. It was a good experience."
Thomas believes the camp will help this year’s recruiting efforts. Since being named head coach back in February, he has been scouring Western Canada and parts of the United States for players that he hopes will help the Bobcats get back into the win column, a place they haven’t been since Feb. 5, 2010.
He also thinks that some of the Grade 11 students who came out can help him develop a recruiting plan for the following season as well.
"It was good to see a few potentials for next season as well as the Grade 11s to give them some feedback and see how they respond to the feedback that you’ve given them and just to see their work ethic as well," he said. "It was definitely worthwhile."
Thomas, a former member of the national men’s basketball team, takes over a Bobcats team that is coming off back-to-back winless seasons in the Canada West conference under interim coach Ritchie Jacobson and former coach Jaime Taggart, who resigned from her position last summer.