It’s rare to see an undersized rookie put up big numbers in the Canada West conference, but that’s exactly what Mission’s Taylor Claggett did last season for the UFV Cascades women’s basketball team.
Claggett averaged 11.7 points and a team-high 8.7 rebounds playing out of position last season. The 2015 MEI grad routinely battled against girls much bigger than her, and excelled on a nightly basis.
Her strong season didn’t go unnoticed, as she was named to the Canada West all-rookie team – the first Cascade to do so.
In addition to her rebounding number, she also rewrote the Cascades’ rookie record book, setting new marks for first-year players for points, field goals made, field goal percentage, free throws attempted and made, offensive rebounds, and minutes.
She’s back to her regular forward position this season, but said last season was a big step for her game.
“Last year I never went in with the mindset that I was just going to come off the bench and play a rookie role,” she said. “A spot opened up in my position early and I wanted to prove I could play at this level. The opportunity was there so I did what I needed to do to take it.”
The Mission native’s play came as no big surprise to Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer, but he said she over-delivered in her role last season.
“It was really a seamless adjustment going from MEI to here for her,” he said. “I knew she was going to be a good player for us but I wasn’t sure she was going to give us quite that much. She put up phenomenal numbers for a first-year kid, and she really exceeded my expectations.”
Basketball wasn’t exactly a first love for Claggett, who participated in a variety of sports before settling on hoops. She played water polo, volleyball, soccer, and track and field, achieving a degree of success in all. She noted that her years in water polo helped her learn how to position her body more effectively for rebounding in basketball.
It wasn’t until Grade 9 at MEI that Claggett began focusing more on basketball. She helped lead the Eagles to a tournament win at the Abbotsford Police City tournament in 2013, and to a fifth place showing in the province that year. They finished seventh in the province in 2014, with Claggett being named an honourable mention all-star and earning a scholarship for her play.
Since coming to UFV, she’s also been making an impact off the court. Claggett is heavily involved with Athletes in Action, the Soles for Souls project and recently did the Walk and Knock fundraiser on Halloween to help the Abbotsford Food Bank. She said helping out in the community is important to her.
“I realized last year that just doing school and basketball all the time isn’t super fulfilling,” she said. “Doing things in the community made me feel like I was using my time better. Basketball and school give me a platform to reach out in the community and help others.”
Claggett said she will have to develop newer skills moving from post to forward, but Tuchscherer said she shouldn’t have any problems.
“She’ll be facing the hoop as opposed to playing with her back to it this year but she’s such a hard worker and so determined that I’m sure she’s going to make it work,” he said.
Just four games into the season, Claggett seems to be doing just that. She’s averaging 12.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg and is shooting 59 per cent from the field.
The Cascades’ record stands at two wins and two losses early into the season, and Claggett thinks the team has potential to make a lot of noise.
“We’re a very young team but we’re learning fast,” she said. “We need to play bigger than we are, and be huge on the boards. If we can build on what we’ve already learned, I think it could lead to great things for us.”
Claggett and the Cascades next host the UNBC Timberwolves today (Friday) and tomorrow (Saturday). Women’s games tip off at 6 p.m. on Friday, and 5 p.m. on Saturday.