REGINA -- Most university teams are dealing with a lot of hardships in the wake of U-Sports cancelling the majority of varsity schedules.

The University of Regina is no different, but the Cougars Women’s basketball team says they couldn’t have asked for a better year for COVID-19 to hamper most activities.

“I haven’t been that worried about the pandemic because this year was a growth year anyways,” said Head Coach Dave Taylor.

The team only graduated three players from the 2019-20 roster, however they’ve picked up six rookies, or half their squad.

Taylor says it’s the first time since 2008 that he’s recruited so many freshmen.

With the regular season, playoffs and all championships cancelled, it’s almost as if he had a crystal ball.

“No, I’m not a genius,” laughed Taylor. “I hadn’t recruited as heavily because I knew some good groups were coming.”

Taylor, who is entering his 14th season as head coach, didn’t recruit many players in the last few years because of the strong rookies coming in this year and next year. 

It’s rare for a coach who has learned his season is on hold to be so positive.

For such a young squad, skill development is essential, he said. 

“Coaches, we talk about the process to death. But this is the year where yes, this is about the process because every single day you have to get better,” Taylor said.

university of regina cougars basketball

For the rookies, it’s about managing expectations versus the realities of being a university student.

“I was expecting like lots of training, travelling, school, but this year it’s so different,” said Jade Belmore, who graduated from Dr. Martin LeBoldus this year.

Belmore’s Suns teammate, Maren Tunison, is trying to see the silver lining.

“It’s helped us not playing games to ease into everything. It’s been awesome to get to know the team better and get to know the practice dynamic,” Tunison said.

It’s the first time in 13 seasons that the Cougar’s don’t have a single fifth-year player.

They have two fourth-year players, including Faith Reid.

The guard started for the first time last year and finished second on the team in scoring, with 226 points.

However, she barely saw the court in her first year.

“It’s so weird, but honestly with this team, I do think that us not playing games this year is going to be really beneficial,” said Reid.

The lack of veteran leadership means Taylor will need to take on a more vocal role at practice.

“Anytime you don’t have as many older players, the coaches have to be involved more, they have to fill in the gaps,” Taylor said.

Meaning this season will be full of growing pains, as the team learns with no game experience.

“I think we’re all just so hungry for it and excited at the fact that we have a lot of years to play together,” said Reid.