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Homegrown Capers player has developed into one of nation’s top players
From bench player to leading scorer in the country, North Sydney’s Hannah Brown is a classic case of hard work paying off.
And her dominant play this season has propelled the university team she idolized as a youngster — the Cape Breton Capers — to a 5-0 record and first place in the AUS women’s basketball standings.
“Hannah’s worked so hard in five years to make herself a player,” Capers head coach Fabian McKenzie said. “She came in as a rookie and didn’t play a whole lot and learned the ropes. But she worked so hard to make herself multi-talented. She rebounds the ball well, she shoots it well from outside when she’s out there and she’s just a beast around the rim right now. She’s dominating in the paint and that’s a credit to how hard she’s worked.
“She didn’t have all the skills coming in but she’s made herself into a complete basketball player.”
The six-foot-one Brown leads the nation with 28.8 points per game. Maria Mongomo of the University of Northern British Columbia and Acadia’s Haley McDonald are next at 23.3 and 23.2, respectively. In five regular-season games this season, Brown’s lowest point total was 23.
Brown is also second in the Atlantic conference to UPEI’s Carolina Del Santo in rebounding at 10.4 per game.
But she doesn’t get caught up with the gaudy stats. She grew up cheering for the Capers, seldom missing a home game. Her hoops dream was to wear the orange jersey. Whether it was as a role player or a starter, as long as she was a part of the team. Never did she think she’d be the U Sports leading scorer.
“Being a person who grew up in Cape Breton, sitting on the sidelines watching every single Capers game, it’s not about playing lots of minutes and scoring lots of points,” said Brown, a Memorial High School product. “Success is measured by being a part of something that’s bigger than yourself. And when you play for CBU you are part of something bigger than yourself. You’re playing for the alumni, you’re representing the university, you’re wearing the jersey. There’s a whole lot of pride that goes with that.
“I just love the sport so much,” she added. “It taught me so much as a person. I experienced so much personal growth over the past five years, established the work ethic and met so many people and learned so much. Maybe I spent some time on the bench, but I know I was valued on the team. And that’s what we try to instill into the players that are here. It’s something bigger than yourself.”
With last season’s graduation of fellow Cape Breton native Alison Keough, an AUS MVP and league-leading scorer, Brown has taken on a greater leadership role in her senior season.
Seven players on the Capers roster are either in their first or second year. Brown and Madison Munro of Truro are the lone fifth years on the squad.
“My mindset over the summer was to do all the right things, work hard and do everything I needed to do to prepare for that role while at the same time, recognizing it is my last year,” Brown said.
“It’s easy enough to appreciate the game and love the game because I have been doing it for so long. I want to appreciate every moment that I can because realistically I’m playing in my last season of basketball ever. It’s a roller coaster kind of season and I want to go out with a bang. I want to accomplish the goals as a team and personally.
“From talking to people like Alison who finished up after five years, they remind me to be in the moment and appreciate the experiences that basketball has provided for me,” she added. “As a student-athlete, basketball has always been a huge part of our lives. Finishing off is tough to deal with. I guess it’s a good thing because it means you’re moving on to new beginnings. But it’s tough to let go because it’s such an amazing sport.”
With a younger lineup, the trio of Brown, Toni Bianchini and MacKenzee Ryan have averaged at least 31 minutes on the floor.
The formula has worked thus far with the unbeaten Capers sitting atop the Atlantic conference standings.
“Coming into this year, we had many ups and downs with so many new people,” Brown said. “We’re building off a culture that CBU represents and teaching them what it’s all about and who they’re playing for. We’re still in the process of doing that. So we’re very happy with our start.
“Normally a team that’s going through this kind of process, they wouldn’t be undefeated because it’s such a new team and we’re still getting to know each other. But I’m really excited about this group. I feel I’ve connected with our first years and we’re only getting started. We could accomplish a lot this season.”
Even with a perfect record at the quarter-pole, Brown and the Capers know there’s still lots of season to be played.
The AUS pre-season favourite UPEI Panthers are lurking behind at 5-1. The defending champion Acadia Axewomen and the upstart UNB Reds each own 4-2 records.
“I love that there’s no real outlier team,” said Brown, a business student. “I like that we have to work hard and execute the details in every single game. There’s no easy game. You have to go into every single game, prepared and ready to play.”
Cape Breton returns to action this weekend as they host the Memorial Sea-Hawks (3-3) Saturday and Sunday at Sullivan Field House.
DOUBLEHEADERS SLATED FOR SCOTIABANK CENTRE
The AUS will stage another men’s and women’s basketball doubleheader at the Scotiabank Centre in downtown Halifax.
Dubbed the Varsity Showdown, it will feature the Dalhousie Tigers against the Saint Mary’s Huskies on Friday evening.
The women’s teams will take the court at 6 p.m. After dropping their first four games, the Tigers (2-4) have won two straight. The Huskies have struggled this season and sit at 0-6.
Following the women’s tilt, two of the top teams in men’s hoops — the Tigers and Huskies — will battle it out at 8 p.m.
SMU has been the class of the men’s conference five games into the season. The Huskies are unbeaten at 5-0.
Dal hosts the U Sports Final 8 championship in March at Scotiabank Centre. The Tigers are on a modest two-game winning streak and own a 4-2 record.