Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Fraser Valley Preview in Abbotsford Times

Cascades playing underdog: UFV men's basketball head coach thinks top teams look past his squad

Speaking frankly, University of the Fraser Valley Cascades men's basketball head coach Barnaby Craddock didn't have much fun last year.

In fact, he went so far as to say it was the "most difficult year as a coach, ever."

The team, he said, didn't have great chemistry. It wasn't very competitive and he didn't enjoy too much the fact that his team failed to make the playoffs.

That can be trifling for any coach in any sport at any age, but Craddock - as frustrated as he may have been - still managed to find some positives from the 2008-2009 CIS men's basketball campaign.

One was the experience rookie's like former Yale Secondary grads Josh Kufske and Jasper Moedt, integral parts of Yale's 2008 provincial basketball championship team, got playing in key situations last season.

"Obviously one of the biggest strengths was the minutes our freshman received last year," said Craddock.

The other big key Craddock mentioned was the health of highly touted Joel Friesen, who was sidelined for all of last season with an Anterior Crucial Ligament injury.

Friesen was also a member of the 2008 Yale Lions championship winning squad. In fact, he was the Lions best player that tournament and was recognized as the Most Valuable Player for his efforts.

He's back, according to his coach, and should be a contributing member of the Cascades this fall.

"He's a guy that can help our line-up and push for rookie of the year honours," said Craddock.

Experience and health will play a large role in the Cascade's fortunes this season, but the team has also been very active this summer recruiting "top level" athletes in an attempt to give the program a boost.

"We went out, did some recruiting this summer and it looks like we also have a revamped line-up for this season," said Craddock.

"There are some guys we brought in with good size and good skill and we think they will help us."

The Cascades are going to need all the help they can get in the CIS West Division, one that Craddock called the "toughest division in Canada."

"Two or three of the top 10 teams in Canada are in our division," he said.

"I think we'll definitely be playing the role of the underdog. I think teams in our division are looking past us, but our program is trying to become part of that upper echelon of teams."

Craddock has been hard at work this summer, bringing in notables such as Australian James Elliot, Zeon Gray from Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Wash., and former Mennonite Education Institute star Jon Loewen of Abbotsford.

Loewen spent one year at CIS rival Trinity Western University just a short drive down the Trans-Canada Highway.

At a solid six-foot-eight and 230 pounds, Elliot helps provide the Cascades size at the post position, and the pride of Perth, Aust., said his game is to utilize that big body to create room for himself and his teammates.

"Athletically, I like to bang, and to be a physical presence," said Elliot in a press release back on Aug. 11.

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