Does a New Decade Mean New Fortunes for the Brandon Bobcats?

Latrace, Sydney
Guard Sydney Latrace and the Brandon Bobcats are hoping that a new decade will yield better results on the hardwood. (Source: Brandon Bobcats) (Header: Brandon Bobcats)

BRANDON, Man. — If you’re reading this, it’s not too late.

While we’re still looking back on an incredible 2019-20 season, one that had no shortage of excitement across both U Sports and the CCAA, it’s also the perfect time to look ahead.

The 2020-21 season is going to be one for the history books. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the start of the season has been pushed back until at least January 2021 for most leagues, with Quebec as the exception. The RSEQ has yet to make a decision on whether or not to delay sports until the Winter semester.

To get fans across the country ready for the new season, we’ve taken on a challenge that hasn’t been done before. In the coming weeks, we will preview every team from coast to coast ahead of the 2020-21 season.

That’s 112 different programs, if you’re keeping a tally at home.

We are attempting to preview each and every team from coast to coast ahead of the new season. Challenges have emerged in each of the last two seasons as we’ve attempted this feat before, but we’re going to give it another run.

As they say, third time’s the charm. Right?

For institutions that have both men’s and women’s basketball, a separate preview piece will be done for each team.

Rosters will be dissected and a look back at the year that was will help us determine what the team looks like this time around as every team begins with a blank slate in the standings.

Without further adieu, here is today’s preview on the Brandon Bobcats Women’s Basketball program.

2019-20 in Review

With the 2010s now in the rear-view mirror, the Brandon Bobcats are hoping that the 2020-21 season will kick off a better string of results.

The past decade wasn’t overly friendly to the Bobcats on the hardwood. They closed the decade having missed the playoffs in three consecutive years, and they’ve failed to finish above the .500 mark in each of the last 10 years.

Brandon came closest to the .500 mark back in 2016-17, when they went 8-12 during the regular season. The 2016-17 season was also the last year in which the Bobcats made the playoffs.

The Bobcats would lose their First Round Play-In series against the Trinity Western Spartans, 2-1.

In 2019-20, the Bobcats struggled to find any positives to build around. They finished the year at the bottom of the Canada West standings with a record of 1-19, and while they had a handful of losses within 10 points, the Bobcats couldn’t build any sort of positive momentum throughout the year.

Out of the gates, the Bobcats struggled through a 12-game losing streak. It wasn’t until January 17th, 2020 before they could break into the win column. At home against the Thompson Rivers Wolfpack, the Bobcats found another level to their offense, rolling to the 83-52 win, putting an end to their 12-game losing streak in the process.

Brandon led 37-24 at half, but a big fourth quarter blew the game wide open. The Bobcats outscored the Wolfpack by a 24-12 margin over the final 10 minutes to extend their lead, and they won comfortably.

As a team, the Bobcats shot 56.6% from the field, up from their seasonal average of 35.4%. They also shot 66.7% from three-point range in the win.

Following the win, Brandon would lose their next seven games to close the year with a 1-19 record. On offense, they averaged 58.0 points per game, while giving up an average of 79.2 points per game on the defensive end, a difference of 21.2 points per outing.

With their playoff drought now at three seasons and the program not having a winning record in more than a decade, the Bobcats are hoping that the 2020-21 season will yield some better results. They will have to do so without two of their top three scorers from last year’s team, which will make their uphill climb even more challenging.

Time will tell how things play out, but after finishing at the bottom of the Canada West standings in 2019-20, it’s all uphill from here for the Bobcats.

Who’s Gone?

With the ever-changing situation surrounding the global COVID-19 pandemic, and its effect on school enrollment for the fall semester and beyond, speculating what the 2020-21 roster could look like for the Bobcats is about the best we can do at this point.

Last season, the Bobcats honoured a pair of players on Senior’s Night, both of whom were among the top three scorers on the Brandon roster in 2019-20. Guards Logan Biccum (Virden, Man.) and Hailey Maas (St. Joseph, Mich.) graduated at the conclusion of the season, leaving two holes to be filled in the back court.

Biccum first joined the program back in the 2014-15 season as a redshirt, spending a total of six seasons with the Bobcats. In 2019-20, the native of Virden, Manitoba finished third on the team in scoring, averaging 8.9 points to go along with 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. Biccum shot 33.5% from the field and 72.9% from the field.

Over the course of the season, Biccum was one of three players to start all 20 games for the Bobcats. Her season was bookended by strong offensive performances. Biccum kicked off the season by reaching double-digits in four of the team’s first six games. Then, she closed the year with back-to-back double-digit performances, including a 17-point performance to close the regular season.

Overall, Biccum recorded double-digit points in nine games.

Ahead of the 2017-18 season, Maas came to the Bobcats after transferring from the Lake Michigan Red Hawks in the NJCAA, and became a regular fixture in the starting five as her career progressed. This past season, Maas ranked 8th in the Canada West in terms of three-point shooting percentage, hitting on 39.3% of her attempts from beyond the arc.

For the year, Maas averaged 9.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game over 17 regular season appearances. She ranked second on the Bobcats in scoring, and she closed her career with some of her best basketball on the season. Maas closed her career with double-figures in five of her last six games, averaging 13.7 points per game over that span.

Maas recorded a season-high 19 points on two separate occasions throughout the year, including the regular season finale.

With the losses of both Biccum and Maas from the back court, the Bobcats will look to their returnees to step up and take on expanded roles this season. Younger players will take on expanded roles this season as they look to replace the production lost with their two graduates.

Who’s Back?

Like most schools and programs all across Canada, Brandon University is awaiting the start of the school year to officially confirm who will be back and who may be taking a year off given the remote learning offering as opposed to in-person classes.

With that in mind, the Bobcats are expected to return the majority of last year’s roster. For reference, three players who played all 20 games a season ago are back, with two of those players having started all 20 games along the way.

A total of 12 players played at least 12 games last season, and nine of them figure to be back in 2020-21.

Proulx, Adrianna
Adrianna Proulx led the Bobcats in both scoring and rebounding last season, and will look to help lead the Bobcats up the Canada West standings in her last year of eligibility. (Source: Brandon Bobcats)

Headlining the group of returnees is fifth-year forward Adrianna Proulx (Thompson, Man.). Proulx closed the 2019-20 as the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 10.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game while shooting 34.3% from the field and 75.0% from the free throw line.

As the season moved along, Proulx became more of a consistent offensive presence. In 10 games after the Christmas break, Proulx recorded double-digit points in seven of those contests. She finished the season with 11 double-figure point outings over the course of the season.

One of her Proulx’s better performances came on November 9th against the Lethbridge Pronghorns. Despite coming out on the wrong side of a 64-54 decision, Proulx recorded 13 points and 10 rebounds for her lone double-double of the season.

With the graduation of both Biccum and Maas, the Bobcats will lean more heavily on Proulx to be a sparkplug for the offense.

In the back court, guard Chelsea Misskey (Warman, Sask.) will step into an expanded role with the aforementioned losses. Last season, Misskey was one of three players to start all 20 games, and will factor prominently into the starting lineup once more in 2020-21.

Chelsea Misskey should take on an expanded role in 2020-21 with the losses in the Brandon back court rotation. (Source: Brandon Bobcats)

Misskey averaged 5.4 points on 33.9% shooting from the floor and 30.8% shooting from three-point range in 2019-20, numbers that should increase this year with an expanded role.

One name to watch in the back court rotation is second-year guard Sydney Latrace (Regina, Sask.). As a first-year guard a season ago, Latrace was one of the five players to see the floor in all 20 games, coming off the bench to play significant minutes out of the gates.

Latrace averaged 3.0 points and 1.4 rebounds per game while shooting 32.8% from the field, and her numbers should also increase as expanded roles and responsibilities come her way.

Up front, Laney Harder (Winkler, Man.) will look to expand her role and continue to compliment Proulx in the front court rotation. Harder is the second of two players that are back who started all 20 games last season, averaging 6.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per contest.

Harder recorded six games with double-digit points last season, reaching a season-high 12 points on three occasions. On the glass, she pulled down five or rebounds 11 times, giving the Bobcats a consistent performance in terms of rebounding on both ends of the floor.

The Bobcats will look to their four returnees, among others, to be the catalysts for change within the program. With the exception of Proulx, most players will take on expanded and differing roles with the team than in year’s past. How these players take to their new roles early on will be a good telling point for how the season could play out.

Incoming Talent

To this point in the off-season, Head Coach Novell Thomas and the Bobcats have added a pair of players to the roster in their 2020-21 recruiting class. The school itself has formally announced one recruit, while the second was found on the U Sports Letter of Intent (LOI) Registry.

Hallett, Sarah
(Source: Brandon Bobcats)

Back on November 21st, 2019, the Bobcats announced the commitment of Sarah Hallett (Boissevain, Man.) to the program for the 2020-21 season. Hallett, a 6’2’’ forward, comes to the Bobcats from Boissevain School, and will give the front court more size and depth alongside the likes of Proulx and Harder.

Thomas has also added the services of Hannah Smith to the mix, as indicated on the U Sports LOI Reigstry.

With only two players expected gone from last year’s roster, the Bobcats have filled those roster spots with Hallett and Smith. With her size and skill up front, Hallett should become a key piece of the rotation from the start.

For the Bobcats, they are hoping to find a way to climb out of the basement of the Canada West standings and work their way back to contending for a playoff spot. Having been three years since they’ve been part of the Canada West playoffs, the team will be eager to make positive strides in 2020-21.

Losing two of their top three scorers from a team that struggled to put the ball in the basket at times last season won’t be an easy task, but they have some younger players who will look to step into bigger roles and shoulder more responsibility this season.

Only time will tell if the new decade will yield better results for the Bobcats, but it’s all up hill from here.

Be sure to bookmark our 2020-21 Season Previews page to keep up with the previews as they are released online.

– T. Bennett

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