Neelin’s Paige Thomson looks to pass in last night’s game. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
The Thomson family has been a part of the Bobcats story for decades, but the next young star is turning another Paige.
After weighing both volleyball and basketball offers at the CIS level, 17-year-old Neelin Spartans standout Paige Thomson has committed to the University of Victoria Vikes women’s basketball team for the 2014-15 Canada West conference season.
"I definitely had it on my mind a lot, but it feels pretty good to know what I am doing next year," Thomson said.
It was a difficult decision to not follow in the family footsteps to play for the Brandon University Bobcats, with her older sister Mary a member of BU’s women’s volleyball team and her father Don and mother Jennifer having both played and coached Bobcats basketball.
"Yes it was (difficult)," Paige Thomson said. "Brandon, they have grown and made strides as a program in the past few years and coach (Novell) Thomas has gotten them to that point ...
"It really came down to academics. I really want to get into geography and coastal studies and the opportunity to go study Coastal Studies on the coast (in Victoria) is kind of what sold it ... And they have a very, very high quality basketball tradition there."
Going from Brandon to B.C. won’t be the only adjustment for Thomson, as she makes the jump from high school basketball to the university ranks. However, at six feet tall and blessed with a superb skill set, Thomson has the ability to play anywhere from the point to the post and has experience at the elite level after winning a bronze medal with Manitoba’s women’s basketball team at the 2013 Canada Summer Games.
"Playing on the provincial team, I know there is a lot of hard work to play at a different level," said Thomson, who is averaging 19 points and 12 rebounds per game for the Spartans varsity girls’ basketball team and demonstrated she was a big-game player by scoring 36 points in last year’s city finals. "My parents will help prepare me because they both played at that (university) level and they know about the first-year grind and stuff like that."
Neelin’s female athlete of the year last season and a finalist for the Brandon Sun’s H.L. (Krug) Crawford Award for Westman’s athlete of the year, Thomson was a member of the Spartans provincial AAAA champion varsity girls’ volleyball team in 2012 and won a silver medal last year and was also a two-year provincial team member with Basketball Manitoba.
She will join a UVic team that is currently in a three-way tie for first place in the CWUAA Pacific Division at 13-5 and Vikes head coach Dani Sinclair believes she can contribute right away.
"I had an opportunity to watch Paige play at the Summer Games in Sherbrooke last summer and she obviously comes from a pretty strong basketball background and you can see that in just her feel and understanding of the game," Sinclair said. "She’s a smart player, she’s very skilled and she’s very versatile. She’s kind of one of those players that can play wherever the team needs. If they need to guard a bigger player, she can do that, or if she needs to play on the perimeter, her skill set allows her to play different positions."
Thomson is the fourth member of this year’s recruiting class and Sinclair believes she is a perfect fit for the Vikes’ culture.
"She is, in some ways, the typical coach’s kid who can shoot the ball and all those things," she said. "And I think as we’ve gone through the process, one of the things that has really stood out for us is just the type of character that she has.
"We are really looking for those tough, gritty kids that know how to win and she has obviously demonstrated that in the success she’s had in not only basketball, but in volleyball and other sports. She has some of those intangible things that are hard to find."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 5, 2014