Jessica Hartog has achieved a great deal of basketball success over the last few years.
Now the Winnipegger is hoping to make even bigger strides as a member of the Brandon University Bobcats women’s hoops team.
The five-foot-10 guard, who head coach Novell Thomas expects will play at the wing position for BU over the next five seasons, committed to the Canada West school on Thursday.
"It is so surreal," Hartog said in a press release. "I could not imagine myself playing university basketball and now that dream is a reality."
Hartog is the second basketballer to join the Bobcats ahead of the 2017-18 campaign, joining five-foot-five guard Chelsea Misskey of Warman, Sask.
Thomas first watched Hartog play during the 2015-16 high school season when she was part of a Vincent Massey Trojans team that earned silver at AAAA varsity girls’ provincials, a feat that was replicated this season.
Hartog was also part of a silver-medal performance with the Trojans at AAAA JV provincials in 2015, and played for Manitoba at the Western Canada Summer Games that same year.
The second time Thomas saw her play, his interest in her as a prospective Bobcat increased.
"I saw her again at our junior Bobcats tournament," Thomas said. "The first time I saw her I was somewhat intrigued and I saw her play in our tournament and I was very intrigued at that point."
What stood out to Thomas was Hartog’s calm demeanour and her strong ability to pass and shoot the basketball.
He foresees Hartog, who joins Lauren Anderson as the only players on the roster from Winnipeg, having some ball handling responsibilities next season but that will not be her primary focus when she is on the court.
"The transition from high school to the U Sports level is tough so if she is an instant contributor then great but I think the key is if there is development and there’s progress, and we can see that down the line she’ll be a solid contributor for us," Thomas said.
"Like any first-year kid, she is going to have to get stronger and she is going to have to get quicker and see the game at a faster pace," he continued. "I’ve seen enough where I’m intrigued by her offensive skill set."
Although the upcoming Canada West season doesn’t begin until the fall, Hartog expects to gain valuable experience in July when she is slated to represent Canada at the Maccabiah Games in Israel.
She will be one of approximately 9,000 athletes from 78 countries competing in the international Jewish multi-sport event, which is the third-largest sporting event in the world, behind the Summer Olympics and the FISU World University Games.
"It is a huge opportunity and the high pressure games will benefit me moving ahead," Hartog noted. "I am really proud and it is a really important moment in my life."
However, she is also looking forward to applying her craft on the hardwood with BU.
"I feel like BU and I will be a perfect fit," said Hartog. "I like smaller universities, so when this opportunity came up it was a no brainer to become a Bobcat."