History will remember Jessica Roque as the first Canadian female to join an NBA coaching staff, thanks to a guest stint with the Sacramento Kings during the 2019 Summer League.
But as she steps in as the new head coach of the University of Waterloo women’s program this season, it’s clear she’s not done making history yet.
“I am both excited and grateful for the opportunity,” said Roque in a statement.
“I am committed to growth and change in order to further support the Waterloo Warriors in becoming a world-class women’s basketball program.”
Roque joins Waterloo after four seasons at Ryerson, where she was a full-time assistant under head coach Carly Clarke.
In that time, the Rams won an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) silver medal and made two appearances in the U Sports national championship tournament.
“I am thrilled for Jess and this excellent opportunity to further her career as the head coach at Waterloo,” said Clarke.
“Assisting and growing our program in multiple ways… Jess’s passion, hard work, and loyalty has helped our program reach a level and tradition of sustained success over the past four seasons.”
It was no secret Roque was ready to take the reins of a major program.
At Ryerson she was a workhorse, preparing in-game tactics, facilitating practice and breaking down film and recruiting players.
“My time at Ryerson has been invaluable to both my personal and professional growth,” she said.
2020-21 U Sports Basketball Season on Hold
It’s unclear when the 2021 season will get under way. The OUA has cancelled all sports up to Dec. 31 due to Covid-19, and all basketball programs are in a state of limbo.
Many students will be required to take classes online, and it’s unclear if spectators will be allowed to attend games if the season does go ahead.
In any case, Waterloo is likely headed for a lengthy rebuild.
The Warriors have finished at or near the bottom of the OUA West standings for more than a decade, posting two winless seasons in that stretch. They were also last in the division last season with a 3-19 record.
A culture change is sorely seeded, and Roque may be uniquely equipped to guide it.
Her experience at the provincial and national levels was punctuated with time as an assistant with the Junior National Men’s Team that won gold at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in 2017.
That tournament was a coming out party for R.J. Barrett, who won tournament MVP and ended up as a No. 3 overall NBA Draft pick after one season at Duke University.
Jessica Roque NCAA Player & Assistant Coach
As a player at Cleveland State University (CSU), Roque also co-captained the Vikings to Horizon League Championships in 2008 and 2010. Roque was also an assistant coach at CSU for the 2015-16 season.
“It is clear from Jessica’s credentials, she is more than ready to jump into the role as head coach,” said Brian Bourque, associate director of athletics and recreation at Waterloo.
“We are ecstatic for her to lead this program to become a contender. Just by talking with her, you can tell she lives and breathes basketball, and I know her infectious passion for the game will carry over to our student-athletes.”
In a release, Waterloo said Roque will begin working with her players through the summer with the hope of getting back to the gym by fall to start in-person training.
“I will truly miss the team and the Ramily community,” she said. “I wish them nothing but the best and look forward to the match-up, whenever the season gets under way.”