Kate Head

Kate Head

Fab Five: Blue-chip high schoolers sign with UFV women’s basketball team

Kate Head, Amanda Thompson, Taylor Claggett, and twin sisters Cierra and Alicia Roufosse have signed with UFV.

“National championship.”

That’s the first thing out of Taylor Claggett’s mouth – without missing a beat – when asked what she and four of her closest friends are capable of accomplishing together over the course of their five-year careers with the University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team.

The other four blue-chip high school seniors who recently signed with the Cascades – Amanda Thompson, Kate Head and twin sisters Alicia and Cierra Roufosse – quickly chime in in agreement. This is their shared dream.

“I think we’ll have a lot of ups and downs getting there,” Cierra Roufosse says, “but as long as we stick together and motivate each other, it’s definitely a possibility.”

Indeed, while winning Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) gold is a lofty goal, it’s not so far-fetched when you consider the talent of this group of recruits – all of whom are in the early stages of their Grade 12 years and will arrive at UFV in the fall of 2015.

Claggett, a 5’11” power forward with the Mennonite Educational Institute Eagles, is perhaps the most rugged, physical player in the province and probably draws more fouls than any other player in B.C., too.

Thompson, a 5’10” shooting guard, helped Mouat’s junior girls team to the 2013 B.C. championship and earned tournament MVP honours along the way. She’s a lockdown defender, a natural leader and a solid three-point shooter, but she won’t be flashing those skills on the hardwood anytime soon. She suffered a torn ACL two months ago and is currently rehabbing after surgery, and expects to be back in action in January.

The towering Roufosse twins, teammates of Thompson’s at Mouat, both stand 6’3″, but they’re not identical players. Alicia is more of a traditional post player with a nice back-to-the-basket game, while Cierra is more comfortable facing the basket and boasts a fantastic midrange game.

Joining the Abbotsford quartet is Head, a point guard out of Maple Ridge Secondary. She’s an excellent decision-maker whose versatile offensive skill set includes long-range shooting and the ability to attack the hoop.

Traditionally, most elite high school basketball players decide their post-secondary destinations in the spring, and signing this talented crew so early in the school year is a huge coup for Cascades coach Al Tuchscherer.

“From a recruiting standpoint, it doesn’t get any better than that – getting kids to commit early,” he said. “It takes pressure off this year’s recruiting season, which is always hectic and stressful.

“It shows where our program is at – that quality kids want to play in our program.”

The spate of signings is also a validation of the effectiveness of Tuchscherer’s Junior Cascades club program, which develops talented recruits for the university squad year in and year out. All five players suited up for the Junior Cascades this past summer, after having previously played together on the provincial U15 team.

“It started an off-court and an on-court bond really early, so that when we do get to UFV, our relationship off the court will translate into success really quickly,” Claggett said.

Alicia Roufosse echoed those sentiments, noting that her experience with Tuchscherer in the Junior Cascades made it an easy decision to sign with UFV.

“Why wait?” she said. “You want to be with these people, you love the coaches, and there’s nowhere that can really compare to here. It felt like home here, and it was a natural progression.”

Tuchscherer is hopeful that this five-member recruiting class eventually measures up to his class of 2009, which featured six locals including future stars like Aieisha Luyken and Nicole Wierks. That group formed the core of the Cascades’ breakthrough 2013-14 squad which won the CIS bronze medal.

“Obviously that group did a lot of really fabulous things – they came as a group of six and took our program to another level,” Tuchscherer said. “Whereas this group, in a lot of ways, at this stage of the game they’re probably a little bit ahead of that group. It remains to be seen where they take it all, but it’s really promising, for sure.”