Thursday, October 28, 2010

UBC Thunderbirds Preview

One of the most successful programs in the CIS over the past decade with well-regarded Head Coach Kevin Hanson, the T-Birds have come very close to a National championship on now numerous occasions and look to this season to finally get over the hump to get the hard-working Hanson a CIS crown after winning national championships at Langara College at the CCAA level.  UBC has at least nine solid rotation players and several youngsters waiting in the wings to take the reigns after this veteran group composed primarily of fourth and fifth year guys moves on.

Much of UBC's success will hinge on the offensive play of 6'2" defending Moser Award winner Josh Whyte, a slick lefty who smoothly goes by defenders under control, has a nice mid-range game and will knock down 3's if his defender sags off.  Whyte should spend much more time running off screens and looking to score now that 6'1" Alex Murphy, the fifth-year point guard has deservedly been given the reigns running the show full time.  Murphy is an experienced penetrator who continues to improve his decision making at key points.  6'1" Nathan Yu, the author of several big shooting games last season including numerous big shots at key times, provides virtually no offensive drop-off off the bench.  Long, lanky 6'5" Melvin Mayott is another perimeter threat who can defend and get to the rim in transition.

The arrival of stud 6'3" wing Doug Plumb, a strong, athletic scorer with hops and offensive skills, gives UBC another perimeter scoring threat to complement Whyte, again taking some of the pressure off the Moser winner.  Plumb spent a couple of seasons in Division 2 in the States and then part of one season at UFV in '08-'09 and has already been instrumental in multiple UBC wins in the early season with several big scoring games.

Despite not having a dominant pure big man and a general lack of size up front, UBC's forwards are all very good led by 6'7" Brent Malish, a big 3/4 who steps out beyond the three point line and is scrappy around the rim.  In his fifth year, expect Malish to give the 'Birds the same kind of leadership that graduated forward Kyle Watson provided in his senior years.  6'5" Graham Bath is a bit of an undersized five man but very strong and skilled with a penchant for not backing down despite usually dealing with size disadvantages with his matchups.  Last seasons' Nationals became a coming out party of sorts for 6'5" Kamar Burke, the transfer from TRU, who complements the gritty Bath and Malish with his length, quick hops and transition skills.  Burke does his best work on the offensive glass and at the back end of the break.  Underrated 6'9" veteran Balraj Bains brings a strong knowledge of UBC's system, especially with rotations on the defensive end and gets after every rebound at both ends.

Also in the mix is emerging star 6'6" freshman Tommy Nixon, who can play anywhere from the 2 spot through the 4 and will get time in the rotation.  Nixon and 6'7" Mike Lewandowski, another freshman, form the foundation of the T-Birds next generation of stars.  But there is plenty of unfinished work to do this season with a rotation consisting of 9 fourth and fifth year guys (including 3 fifth-years) poised to finally deliver a National championship after back-to-back National championship final game appearances. 

UBC has a chance to assert their hold on the top ranking in Canada West and maybe the country with a pair of games this Friday and Saturday in Langley against highly-touted Trinity Western Spartans in their new gym where likely 2,000+ fanatics should make the environment hostile and fun.

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