After hitting the jackpot with his first-ever recruiting class, Heat women's basketball head coach Bobby Mitchell has continued to transform his roster by bringing in another quality haul.
Focusing on the local talent, Mitchell has inked commitments from the KSS, OKM and Vernon powerhouse high school squads. From the provincial AAA finalists Huskies, Mitchell secured point guard Melaina Corrado, and from the Owls he is bringing in a long-range threat in Kassidy Day. From Vernon is another speedy guard in Kelsey Watts. All three of these Okanagan players are well known to Mitchell after having played their way through the Junior Heat Club program.
Not just relying on the local talent, Mitchell has brought in some top players from across the country as well for his third Canada West season.
6'2" post Abby Smith will join the squad from Winnipeg while Lauren Foullong is a guard who won a national championship playing for Team Ontario, are the two non-B.C. bred players. Neelam Rai, another versatile scoring threat, joins the squad from the basketball hotbed of the Fraser Valley.
Mitchell is ecstatic the Junior Heat Club program continues to deliver U SPORTS level talent. After earning their first conference all-rookie member with Kelowna's Jaeli Ibbetson last year, Mitchell believes this mix of local talent and players from across Canada will be another building block for his women's program.
"We are excited to bring in the 2020 class," he says. "This is a group that all share a strong work ethic and high compete level which is something that goes well with the culture we are building. All of these players were captains on teams and key parts of the success and that's exciting for our young team and future."
The women's basketball program from OKM has been rising high lately and UBCO is excited to add their graduating point guard, Melaina Corrado, to this year's incoming class.
The 5'6" point guard from the Huskies was a leader and an integral part of arguably the best team in school history, as they were the first senior girls' basketball team at OKM to win the Valley Championship and followed that up with a second-place finish at the AAA BC high school provincial championship.
Corrado, a principal's list student, has hopes of one day becoming a physiotherapist, and she will enter the Human Kinetics program come September on the Okanagan campus. As a driver of the high-flying Huskies, she was named the MVP of the Western Canada basketball championship held at KSS this past season, and led her team to the tournament title as well. Also, a skilled soccer player, her background on the club basketball level includes spending the last six seasons with the Junior Heat. That familiarity made the decision to sign for coach Bobby Mitchell was an easy one. Her cousin, Carly, played for the Heat for two seasons, from 2016-2018.
Corrado on her commitment:
"I am very excited to start playing for the Heat so I can represent the local players and community. I can't wait to be a part and help grow the Heat program and basketball community in the Okanagan. I'm looking forward to continuing competing under the guide of Bobby Mitchell and the coaching staff at UBCO. A well as, playing alongside many talented previous teammates and friends"
Heat coach Bobby Mitchell on Melaina Corrado:
"We are really excited about Melaina, she has the ability to have an impact on both ends of the floor. She is versatile and loves to push the pace, having played two years with the Jr. Heat PEBL team she has a good understanding of some systems too. A knee injury will cause her to redshirt this upcoming season but, when ready, we expect her to pick up right where she left off."
Kassidy Day elects to stay at home and play for her hometown squad as another multi-sport medalist from Kelowna Secondary elects to compete for UBCO.
The 5'7" point guard from Kelowna Secondary was a teammate of current Heat Canada West All-Rookie team member Jaeli Ibbetson's Owls when they won the Senior Girls AAA Provincial Championship in 2018. The multi-talented Day also captured provincial silver in Field Hockey with the Owls in both 2017 and 2019.
A provincial team player with Team BC back in 2014, Day has been a standout with the Junior Heat club team from 2017-19. The long-range shooting abilities of Day has earned her multiple player of the game and tournament all-star awards at various high school tournaments in her career. Day has the hopes of one day becoming a kindergarten teacher and will enter the arts program and eventually the education program.
Day has three sisters, including her older sister Desiree who plays for the Okanagan College Coyotes, along with a cousin Ashlyn who plays for the University of Victoria Vikes.
Day on her commitment:
"I want to help change the program and make it better. I liked the idea of staying close to home and in the end, it was the best fit for my career and athletic goals."
Heat coach Bobby Mitchell on Kassidy Day
"Kassidy is a tough gritty guard who has played and been a part of a lot of successful basketball teams. Kassidy was a big part of the 2018 championship KSS Owls, she has played for the provincial team, and has two strong years with our Jr Heat PEBL program. All of this should help in the transition to university basketball."
Lauren Foullong comes to Kelowna from Orangeville, Ont., and she is another multisport athlete addition to the roster. Foullong not only excelled in basketball but she was also a competitive gymnast.
The 5'9" shooting guard is a product of the Caledon Basketball Academy where she starred for the past three years. Prior to that, she was a member of Team Ontario. In 2017 her provincial team managed to capture the national championship.
Foullong, an honour roll student at Humberview Secondary, will enter the human kinetics program at university, in hopes of one day pursuing a career in health sciences.
Foullong on her commitment:
"I am super excited to be a part of the Heat family. I know the team is in a strong building phase and I feel under Coach Bobby's leadership we're going to see some strong seasons ahead. On my visit, I instantly felt great with the girls and I'm excited to contribute on the court."
Heat coach Bobby Mitchell on Lauren Foullong:
"We are excited to have Lauren join our program, Lauren, a 2017 national champion with team Ontario and who played in the competitive OSBA league, has a readiness to make the jump. Lauren is a very mature person with great work ethic who has loads of potential at this level. Her speed and sharp shooting will be a problem for teams in addition to her high basketball IQ and quickness on defence."
A 5'8" guard hailing from Abbotsford, Neelam Rai will bring multiple years of experience on the B.C. provincial team to the Heat.
A multi-sport athlete at Yale Secondary School, she had plenty of high school success with the Lions on the hardwood, while also running as a member of the cross country team at Yale for the past three school years.
Rai was a first-team all-star in the junior provincial tournament her grade 10 year, and was named a second team provincial all-star this past school season as her Lions finished in third spot at the AAAA BC high school championship. As a member of Team BC in both 2015 and 2019, Rai was a part of the squad who finished in bronze medal position at the Canadian National Championship just last year.
Winning her school's athlete of the year award for three straight years, the talented Rai will enter the bachelor of arts program, focusing on psychology, with becoming a lawyer as her future goal.
Rai on her commitment:
"I chose UBCO because it is recognized as one of the best universities in the world. When I walked onto the campus I felt right at home. I know UBCO will offer me a supportive and stimulating environment. After meeting coach Mitchell and hearing his vision for the program, I knew the Heat women's basketball team would be the right fit for me. I believe coach Mitchell's guidance will help me develop further as a player."
Heat coach Bobby Mitchell on Neelam Rai:
"Neelam has a ton of experience with basketball from her roles on multiple club programs and provincial teams, and of course she was a key part of the success of her Yale team over the last three years. We love how hard Neelam plays, each shift is like her last and she is very committed to doing what she can to help the team win. This attitude and her extensive experience are things that bode well for the future."
Six-foot two forward Abby Smith, from Winnipeg, is the lone forward in this year's recruiting class, and she will bolster the front line that has Kelsey Falk and Jaeli Ibbetson around for their sophomore campaigns. Smith comes to the Heat with plenty of club and provincial team experience under her belt, she was a member of Team Manitoba for four seasons before spending the past year with the Junior Bisons Basketball Club this past season.
The forward will enter the nursing program at UBCO, and she talked about how great it was to be able to study to become a nurse while playing university sport as one of the main deciding factors in her recruitment to the Okanagan school.
Smith on her commitment:
"I chose UBCO because I had the option of direct entry into the nursing program, and for basketball, I felt like I fit in with the team and with the coaching style. I am so excited to be attending UBC Okanagan next year because I am beginning a fresh start in my life. It will help me grow as an individual and learn many new things and take on new challenges."
Heat coach Bobby Mitchell on Abby Smith:
"Abby is versatile forward who can bring the ball up, hit an outside shot, and post you up. She will have an impact at both ends as she is a shot blocker and secures rebounds. Watching her play for Team Manitoba I saw this right away, a blocked shot on one end followed by a score on the other. Abby really fits the style we want to play, and she comes in with loads of basketball experience."
Another multi-sport athlete, Kelsey Watts, continues the pipeline for the Heat women's basketball program that is coming out of Vernon Secondary. She joins fellow Panthers, Brianna and Kelsey Falk, on the 2020 UBCO roster, which has boasted a Vernon Secondary alum every year since the Heat's ascension to Canada West in 2011.
Watts has a long list of accolades both on the basketball and volleyball court, including top-10 finishes provincially in both sports in her final year of high school. The 5'9" combo guard trained with the Junior Heat Club at different points of her youth, while also playing with the Sky Volleyball Club in 2016 and 2020.
On the hardwood, she is not just a basketball player. Watts also spends time on hardwood floors as a long-time dance student. She was a member of the Okanagan School of Ballet for 12 years before deciding to focus on basketball and volleyball. The local product will enter the sciences program with her eyes set on either dentistry or medicine following her undergraduate degree. Her list of accomplishments in the classroom matches those on the court, as she was a principal's list student every year in high school, along with being named top English, Math, Leadership and Science student during different periods of time there.
Watts on her commitment:
"UBCO is a young, exciting team. I have had the chance to compete with or against many of the current and incoming players during my high school career. I'm looking forward to taking my game to the next level while wearing the blue and gold. It is an incredible campus, close to my hometown and I'm excited I was offered a chance to play basketball here."
Heat coach Bobby Mitchell on Kelsey Watts:
"Kelsey loves the game and is always working hard on improving. She is a combo guard who can really shoot it, and she comes in with a very high IQ and understanding of the game. We are excited to see where Kelsey can get to at this level."