Star makes mark down under

Canadian shooting star Cassandra Brown has been a basketball globetrotter for the best part of a decade and Australia is the latest addition to a long list of countries to witness her talent.

Just two months after travelling to Japan with the Canadian national team at the FIBA Basketball World Cup qualifiers, Brown put on the OneFortyOne Mount Gambier Pioneers jersey for the first time.

She has looked at home as a Pioneer being the team’s leading scorer with her height causing opponents headaches at both ends of the court in every game.

Speaking to The SE Voice on her 30th birthday, Brown said it had been a great time in the Blue Lake city since the day she arrived.

“It has been a lot of fun so far,” she said.

“I felt super welcomed by the team and the community as soon as I got here.

“I did not really know what to expect because this is my first time in Australia, but it has been great playing in a super competitive league from top to bottom.

“Coach Matt (Sutton) has been great creating a system that is perfect for us and what makes our team so special is that we have threats from one to five and we all enjoy playing for each other.”

Brown dipped her toe into the sporting scene by playing soccer, but it did not take long for basketball to steal her heart and she dedicated her life to shooting hoops by the start of high school.

She appeared tailor-made for basketball being a tall and athletic youngster and these attributes combined with countless hours of practice helped her become one of the brightest talents to not only emerge from her hometown of Veron, but her nation.

Brown was part of Canada’s national team training program for three years until 2010 when she was elevated to the junior women’s outfit helping her nation qualify for the FIBA Under 18 Championships.

When she started studying at the University of Portland, she continued to rise being the Pilots’ leading scorer and was named as the 2011/12 University Female Player of the Year by BC Basketball.

Brown credited this success to her relentless pursuit of improvement.

“I have always been a super hard worker and prided myself on being the first one at the gym at a young age – before the janitors or principals,” she said.

“Every morning at high school I would wake up at 6.45am and go to school with a spare key they gave me and practice.

“Each year I would have a specific goal such as make 500 shots and I would do that before school and then do even more practice at night.

“I just loved getting better and tasting success motivated me even more.”

One of the high points of Brown’s college days occurred at the 2015 NCAA State Farm College Slam.

In an event featuring the best of the best in the college scene, the Portland senior turned heads by out-shooting all female challengers, but lifted the roof off the stadium by beating men’s winner Kevin Pangos to be the overall champion.

Brown nailed her first nine shots and finished with 21 inside a minute to take the title being surrounded by a sea of people.

“That was an awesome memory for sure,” Brown said reflecting on the win.

“What makes it even more special is that I was a late invite the night before the competition.

“So I just flew out there hoping to enjoy the experience with no expectations or pressure which worked to my advantage.

“Ironically I ended up beating another Canadian which is why the crowd was going so crazy at the end.

“I do not want to say I was surprised, but at the same time I was like ‘holy s***, what has just happened’.

“It is one of my favourite basketball memories.”

This win, plus a successful college career put Brown’s name up in lights and the next step was going overseas.

The jump to go abroad has clearly worked with Australia becoming the shooter’s 15th different country where basketball has taken her.

Brown said it was tough selecting a favourite destination, but could not overlook her time representing her country which overshadows everything else she has done as an import with the prospect of playing in this year’s FIBA Women’s World Cup at the top of the priority list.

“Honestly they all just blend together, so I do not have a stand-out, but whenever I am representing Canada and playing for the national team is always huge,” she said.

“It was pretty cool getting selected to go to Japan for the qualifiers in February, so I am hoping to get an invite to go to the World Cup in Sydney this year.

“We are still waiting on what the roster is going to look like, so it would be huge if I can play in that.

“I feel like I am in my prime right now.

“A lot of careers do not go for this long, so I am really grateful to still be playing and performing and hopefully it continues.”

Despite being such a seasoned traveller, Brown admitted the land down under was not quite what she expected.

“It was probably ignorant of me, but I imagined Australia as lots of sun on the beach and when I got here I thought ‘okay, this is different than what I pictured’,” she said.

“It took me a minute to warm up to the city being small, but I absolutely love it here because the family atmosphere is very special.

“Driving on the other side of the road threw me for a while and I am still getting used to that – and I had never seen a kangaroo before either.

“But everyone is just so nice and it is a cool place to be.”

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