Going into Claire Meadows’ third season as the head coach of the UBC Okanagan Heat women’s basketball team has delivered on one of her key building principle by bringing in another strong recruiting class with six new faces set to suit up in the Blue and Gold this fall.
One of the new faces is Vernon Panthers alumna Brianna Falk, a 5-foot-11 forward.
Falk joins fellow forward Anastasia Evans (six-foot, Coquitlam) and guards Lindsey Bott (5-foot-10, North Vancouver-Seycove), Sadie Beers (5-foot-9), Vancouver-Little Flower), Claire Feasby (5-foot-10, Calgary-Western Canada) and Kate Johnson (five-foot-8), Kelowna-Immaculata) in committing to the Heat.
Losing four players to graduation, including the program’s all-time leading scorer in Vernon guard Emily Kanester, Meadows had a number of spots to fill and has reached into the NCAA, Calgary, the Lower Mainland, and locally in the Junior Heat Club program to fill those holes.
Falk played her club basketball with the UBCO Junior Heat.
“I am extremely excited to be able to put on a Heat uniform again,” said Falk. “Although I was only playing for the Junior club team for the last two years I still felt the impact Claire and Bobby (former Panthers coach Mitchell) had on the program and I can’t wait to be coached by such two amazing people.
“Next year I hope my physicality will bring more aggression to the team and my willingness to drive to the hoop will lead to scoring opportunities.”
Panthers head coach Lonny Mazeruk said Falk earned the nickname The Swiss Army Knife for her versatility on the floor.
“She can play all five positions and does it well,” said Mazeruk. “As a Panther, she was asked to defend six-foot posts all the way down to a point guard. Her offensive abilities made her a match-up nightmare as she could post-up smaller guards one possession, then on the next possession take a post to the perimeter and break her down off the dribble.
“Her contribution at the next level will revolve around this versatility and the many ways she can hurt the opposition.”
Falk was instrumental in the great run with the Panthers in her Grade 12 season, leading the team to a 35-2 overall record, and a provincial championship silver medal. Falk earned a first team Provincial All-Star for her efforts. In Grade 11, Falk was awarded an honourable mention All-Star at 2016 AA provincials.
“As a person, she is as genuine and selfless as they come,” said Mazeruk. “Not only has the school and community been the recipient of her generosity, villages in Africa and South America have also experienced it. Her legacy of giving has grown immensely in her time in Vernon. UBCO has signed a true gem of a human being and a cornerstone to their basketball program. The Heat are very lucky to have her as she will be missed at VSS.”
Enrolled in the nursing program at UBC Okanagan, Falk’s goal is to become a registered nurse. Helping others is a passion for Falk who has already travelled to Africa in 2016 to help in an orphanage for two weeks. In 2017 she ventured to Guatemala to help install water filtration systems during her spring break.
Meadows likes what shee sees in Falk.
“She can handle the ball comfortably,” she said. “Her size allows her to have a presence inside and she has an excellent basketball IQ. We will continue to utilize Brianna’s different strengths in our program.”
Not to be forgotten, the Heat will also finally see last year’s prize recruit from Vernon, Jordyn Cullum, on the court as a first-year player. Cullum spent the 2016-17 season as a redshirt while healing from an injury.
“This is an exciting year for our program as we have added a lot of young talent to our roster,” said Meadows. “We are adding some size, quickness and a handful players who can shoot the ball very well. It will be very exciting to watch them development and grow in our Heat program.”
The UBCO Heat women’s basketball team will open their 2016-17 campaign against their long-time rival Thompson Rivers WolfPack in the Furnace. The tip times will be noon on Saturday Nov. 4 and 1 p.m. on Nov. 5 in Kelowna.