Saturday, 15 August 2009

Stacked T-Birds look to continue CW Domination

Finally shaking off a CIS Nationals jinx that saw multiple first-round disappointments, Kevin Hansen's UBC Thunderbirds broke the program into the CIS stratosphere by pushing host Carleton in a very entertaining National championship game last season and with a lineup that has end-of-the-roster players who would likely start on most teams in the country, expect the Birds to make a return trip to Ottawa and legitimately push to bring the W.G. McGee Trophy back out to the west coast for the first time since 1996-97 and bring UBC their first CIS crown since 1972.

Although virtually everyone Coach Hansen puts on the floor can score, recently the T-Birds have been doing it stopping people as last season's UBC team was probably the best overall team defensive unit in Hansen's coaching tenure as the club shaved 9 points per game off of their points allowed totals from the year prior. "(Defensive play) has certainly become more of a point of emphasis with us", shared T-Birds assistant coach Randy Nohr. "We are much more defensively-oriented in terms of what we do in practice and our team defense has grown by leaps and bounds". There was no better example of that defense in UBC's first-round whitewash of Dalhousie in the Final 8 first round as the Birds held the Tigers, led by explosive guard Simon Farine, to a total of 29 points through 3 quarters to win going away.

Despite the loss to graduation of three of their top 6 scorers in stalward 6'3" sharpshooter Chris Dyck, 6'8" center Bryson Kool and versatile 6'7" Matt Rachar, UBC remains stacked and experienced. Look for 6'3" lefty Josh Whyte (4th Year) to continue breaking down opponents off the dribble and scoring in transition - Whyte was regarded as one of Canada's top contributors at this summer's FISU Games basketball tournament and with the graduation of Dyck should get more looks. 6'4" Blaine Labranche (5 year), who played through injury at last season's nationals, keeps teams honest from the perimeter with his range and he should push for a starting role along with 6'6" Brent Malish, who has spent most of his career as arguably the top sixth man in the country and was UBC's leading rebounder and top three point shooter last season. Another fifth-year veteran, 6'6" Kyle Watson, has been a sparkplug throughout his career at UBC and generally takes the most charges, grabs the most loose balls and gets on the glass.

A stable of big men are in the running to replace the graduated Kool starting with 6'5" Graham Bath, entering his 3rd year as an undersized post, but with strong post skills (which he displayed well in the National championship game) and a gritty edge to his game that Nohr describes as "strong, tough, OUA-like post game". 6'9" Balraj Bains (not related to Pasha Bains), also entering his 3rd year of eligibility but 4th year in the program after redshirting his first year, has grown tremendously as a player, biding his time and now should be solidly in the mix up front. The T-Birds are also very excited about 6'11" Winnipeg native Chad Posthamus, who for a true 18 year old freshman directly out of high school is physically mature (265 lbs.) and has impressed enough to be in the running for a starting spot from day one. Nohr described Posthamus as a player "good enough that a guy with his skill set doesn't normally stay in Canada". Indeed, Posthamus turned down a scholarship offer from UNLV to attend UBC.

UBC's real strength could be the depth and experience at the guard spots, led by Whyte but supported by 6'1" point guard Alex Murphy, who is fundamentally sound and has a high basketball iq and 6'1" Nathan Yu, who can shoot it beyond the 3 point line. Both Murphy and Yu are capable of starting depending upon the type of game Hansen wants to play. A bad case of tendonitis basically squashed the season for last season's touted recruit 6'1" Akeem Pierre. Nohr asserts that "Akeem is by far the best athlete on our team but we never really got to see what he could do".

The overflow of talent continues as 6'2" Denny Dumas, the best guard on B.C.'s Provincial team a few seasons ago returns home after a stint at North Dakota University. Dumas adds another combo guard threat and also has deep range out to the 3. If getting Dumas is not enough, Hansen also gets the services of 6'3" Jas Gill, MVP of AA BC championships after games of 50 points and 48 points in the final two games of the provincial tournament. Pre-season practice will determine whether Gill can crack the lineup or possibly redshirt which at UBC seems to breed success if Bath and Bains are any indication. Finally, 6'5" Tommy Nixon also joins the Birds as a solidly-rated three/four after a solid high school career.

Although UBC is not hosting any NCAA games this season, the T-Birds do travel to the mid-west to meet a pair of NCAA Division 1 teams in Oklahoma and Oral Roberts. Expect UBC to be the favorites for the #1 seed in the revamped, eight team Canada West playoffs come late February.

1 comment:

Sean said...


The current Yu TBird is Nathan - his older brother Jordan is a former TBird player and assistant coach who recently took over as head coach of the Capilano Blues.