LANGLEY — Neil Brown can’t help but feel some bittersweet emotion each morning, knowing that next season he is going to be driving to work all by himself.
By that time, both of his daughters are going to be busy with university life, and busy playing the game they’ve shared with their dad for so many years.“I was just doing the math,” the head coach of the senior girls basketball team at Langley’s Brookswood Secondary explained last week, thinking back on all of the mornings that either or both of his daughters accompanied him, ready to work on their respective games in the school gymnasium.
“Christina came since Grade 5,” he continued of his eldest daughter, now playing for Surrey’s Kwantlen Polytechnic Eagles, “and Jessie has been coming since Grade 2. For Jessie, that’s got to be about 1,500 mornings. But thing I am most proud of, is that I haven’t had to make any of our players come in the morning. Jessie could get a ride to school with her friends, but she doesn’t. We still get up at 5:30 and she’s in the gym by 7. And she has been doing that for 11 years.”
All of which takes us conveniently to the start of a new season, one in which the Bobcats open at No. 1 in the B.C. Triple A rankings and debut Sunday (3:30 p.m.) at the Tsumura Basketball Invitational against Victoria’s No. 3-ranked Oak Bay Breakers.
Jessie Brown, now a senior, has emerged from all of those morning sessions as the best shooter in the province, a dead-eye guard who last season shot 42 per cent from beyond the three-point arc while averaging 24 points and six rebounds per game on a team that lost in the provincial final to the South Kamloops Titans.
Her dedication? All you say is that her reputation for repetition is well earned.
“I don’t even think about it when I shoot,” says Jessie, who before she began her high school career would have to find rides in the morning from Brookswood to her elementary school. “It’s all just muscle memory now. But there is always a little room to fix things up. I need to get the shot off faster this year because people are going to be guarding me pretty tightly.”
And while there is very little that happens during the course of a basketball game which will silence the demanding, ever-vocal style that Neil Brown brings to the Bobcats’ bench, the coach is pretty quiet when his daughter is squaring her shoulders to the basket and letting fly.
“It’s funny, but I have watched her for so long, that when she shoots, I expect it to go in,” he says. “She has some hitches in her shot that should have been corrected, but I can’t change 1,500 mornings.”
He knows better than to mess with a good thing.
But what is changing at Brookswood, which hasn’t won a B.C. title since claiming its last of three straight in 2006 under current Thompson Rivers head women’s coach Scott Reeves, is a return to the depth of those past champions, with eye-popping skill both inside and out, and perhaps most importantly, a spread in age throughout its deep roster.
Actually, it’s pretty incredible.
Besides Jessie Brown in her senior year, the Bobcats have 6-foot-2 Tayla Jackson as a Grade 11, and point guard Aislinn Konig, a 10th grade transfer from Vancouver, Wash., who Brown says is already one of the top players in the province. Add to that 5-foot-11 Grade 9 guard Louise Forsyth, perhaps the top player in the Class of 2017, and this season’s potential bonanza could be just the tip of the iceberg.
“It’s pretty scary,” Brown admits. “When you put Jessie, Tayla and Aislinn together, it’s a nice combo. And Louise is the best Grade 9 in the province. I was talking with some coaches and they ask me how good we’re going to be this season, and I tell them that I don’t know because I am just waiting to see who can guard Konig.”
They say that the best players add dimensions to their games each season and Jessie Brown has certainly done that. Over her Grade 11 year, she became much more proficient in driving the ball and getting to the free throw line. And this season, after a summer spent helping B.C. to silver at the Canada Summer Games, she is a vastly improved defensive player.
“It’s really important and I haven’t respected it as much,” she explains of getting stops. “But I know how important it’s going to be this year and that we need it to win.”
The Bobcats will get a chance to see how all of the moving parts come together when they face Oak Bay at the Langley Events Centre. The TBI, highlighted by games Saturday (7:30 p.m.) and Sunday (5 p.m.) featuring B.C. boys all-star teams opposing Findlay Prep of Las Vegas, also includes four girls games on Sunday, each a matchup of preseason Top 10 Triple A teams.
Source: The Province
Author: Howard Tsumura