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Tough year, great results for diamond-in-the-rough rookie

BY SCOTT HUNTER HADDOW [email protected] Laurentian University women's basketball coach Mike Clarke believes he has found a diamond-in-the-rough in rookie Amanda McConnell, and it's not taking long for the shine to come through.
BY SCOTT HUNTER HADDOW

Laurentian University women's basketball coach Mike Clarke believes he has found a diamond-in-the-rough in rookie Amanda McConnell, and it's not taking long for the shine to come through.

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Amanda McConnell
McConnell, 20, made the 2004-05 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) East All-Rookie Team.

It was a fitting reward for an especially difficult freshman year for McConnell.

The native of Regina, Saskatchewan, was toiling in a women's basketball league last year when she ran into former Lady Vees stand-out Karen Vos, who recommended McConnell give university basketball a shot.

One thing led to another, and McConnell became a Lady Vee for the 2004-05 season.

McConnell faced plenty of adversity in her first year with the team.

Just before Christmas, McConnell's mother, who had been battling cancer, passed away.

A lesser person would have folded up her tent and went home for the year, but McConnell showed her true grit and managed to keep playing, and improving.

"She had a tough year, but proved she's tough," said Clarke. "With her mom passing away, it was a difficult time, especially since it was at exam time. To come through the experience as well as she has, is just amazing."

McConnell had many supportive shoulders to lean on and to help her through the difficult experience.

"It was really hard, but the girls on the team were 100 percent behind me," said McConnell. "I could rally around them at any time. If I needed anything, they were there at the drop of a hat. It was tough, but I couldn't have gotten through it without the help of my teammates."

In her first year, McConnell played 19 games, and posted an average of five points per game and 2.6 rebounds per game, among other stats.

OUA fans have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to McConnell's true potential.

"I think Amanda is capable of really exploding," said Clarke. "Coming in on a good team, and putting up great numbers is hard when you're a rookie because you have to learn a lot of new things and change habits. Her numbers don't stand out, but when you watch her, and see the things she can do, it's going to be hard to stop her in the future. Technically and physically she's really advanced. We could see a really big sophomore season from her."

McConnell brings a competitive attitude to the team.

"I am another big body under the net," said McConnell. "I am tough, and just a big presence who plays very hard all the time. I was surprised at making the team. You know it's there, but during the season, it's the farthest thing from your mind."

Making the trek from Saskatchewan was ideal and a great fit.

"I really like the size of Sudbury and Laurentian," said McConnell. "I love the community feeling here, especially coming into the gym at Laurentian and seeing it packed with fans for our games. It feels really good. People here know who you are and respect that you play university basketball."



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