Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Wayne Thomas Canada West Preview Part One

As always, Wayne does a tremendous job teeing up Canada West for readers across the country.

Click on Dinos Hoops News for the story and more ...

Canada West ... A League on the Move
Canada West, just in case you missed it, is in a state of flux, and that may not change for several years to come. The league has seen the addition of new schools like Trinity Western, Fraser Valley, and Thompson Rivers and we’re waiting for UBC-Okanagan to start play in 2011-12, with several others, such as Mount Royal, SAIT, and Grant MacEwan, waiting in the wings.
Simon Fraser is back in their special niche, competing in NCAA Div. 2, against schools you’ve never heard of, in towns like Caldwell, Idaho and Monmouth, Oregon, leaving 13 teams to fight it out for 8 playoff spots in Canada West Basketball this season.

The schedule has each team playing every other team twice, for a hefty 24 game regular season, up from 20 for the East (of the Rockies) Division schools and 18 for the former West (B.C.) Division teams. Where you play each school will, of course, have a bearing on your record, since some schools are deadly at home, but pussy cats on the road.

This looks like a transitional year for many individual programs as well as for the whole league, as Saskatchewan, Calgary, Regina, Brandon, and several others have lost very significant players to graduation or other adventures. The rebuilding, replacing, or re-loading makes it more difficult to predict the playoff teams, with the league re-alignment being an even more significant factor. As one Prairie coach said, “We are now looking for 1 of 8 spots out of 13, rather than 3 out of 4.” Yes, the Eastern teams are nervous, as most of the B.C. schools would appear to be strong enough to claim a post-season berth.
So, here follows our preview of the upcoming season, which gets underway on October 22nd for 10 of the 13 teams.

Wildly Speculative Predictions ...
Power Teams ... UBC, Trinity Western, and Saskatchewan

In With a Chance’ ... Alberta, Fraser Valley, Victoria, Calgary

Hopefuls ... Thompson Rivers, Lethbridge, Regina

Looking Up, Way Up ... Brandon, Manitoba , and Winnipeg

Today, we preview the top 7 contenders ...

UBC Thunderbirds  The ‘Big ‘Birds’ should be flying high again, with the likes of CIS Player of the year, Josh Whyte, 5th year, Calgary, who can do it all from the guard spot. Alex Murphy is another 5th year guard, who will take over the point, at times, to allow Whyte some freedom, and Brent Malish, a tough 6’6” senior forward, will crash the boards, and score more. Coach Kevin Hanson attracts top recruits from high school, like 6’7”, Mike Lewandowski, Pitt Meadows, and Tommy Nixon, a 6’6” red-shirt forward from Kitsilano, and he gets top-notch transfers as well. The latest is Doug Plumb, who was a solid player at Fraser Valley, and who brings a complete game to UBC.

4th year wing Kamar Burke, himself a transfer (Thompson Rivers), and the speedy 4th year guard, Nathan Yu, are other key cogs in a team looking like the consistent contender they have become in Hanson’s tenure at Point Grey.

2009-10 ... 17-1 ... CIS Finalists

Prediction ... 1st place ... 21 wins - 3 losses

Key games ... Oct. 22/23 - Sask. at UBC, Oct. 29/30 - at Trinity Western, Feb. 19/20 - at UVic

Trinity Western Spartans  Coach Scott Allen has a rock-pile of tall talent in Langley, with returnees Jacob Doerksen, 5th year, 6’7” scorer and rebounder, Tyrell Mara, 6’6”, 5th year, wing, Lance Verhoeff, 6’8”, 5th year, post from Calgary Christian), and 6’5” , 4th year, Calvin Westbrook, who plays a guard spot. The Spartans also return Tonner Jackson, a combative 6’7”, 2nd year post, and 6’11” 5th year, Clint Wickham.

TWU have added some very impressive freshman talent ... Eli Mara, a 6’5” guard from White Rock Christian, Jesse Jeffries, a 6’6”, forward, from Vancouver’s Argyle, and Lucas Nugteren, a 6’11” , post from Woodstock, ON. 2 transfers are creating big excitement as well ... Kyle Coston, a 4th year, 6’8”, forward, from Portland State, and Tristan Smith, 6’3”, shooting guard, from Fraser Valley. The big question ? Can TWU overcome the under-achiever tag they earned last season, and contend though the play-off season?

2009-10 ... 9-9 ... missed playoffs
Prediction ... 2nd or 3rd place ... 18 wins - 6 losses
Key games ... Oct. 29/30 UBC at Trinity, Nov. 19/20 Alberta at Trinity, Jan. 21/22 at Calgary

Saskatchewan Huskies  The defending Canada West and CIS champs lost their 3 top players ... Showron Glover, Mike Linklater, and Troy Gottselig. It’s tough to recover from that, but interim Coach Barry Rawlyk has added another California transfer, Jamelle Barrett, 3rd year, 5’10 “ guard, who looks like a player. The green and white return Michael Leiffers, a 6’7” rebounder with a touch, as well as the tenacious 6’5”, Nolan Brudehl, a 3rd year forward. Rejean Chabot, the 6’2”, guard, who took some ‘time away’ at Brandon, returns for his 5th year, and will be a key addition for his new/old team. Other returnees include 2 shooters in Duncan Jones, a 4th year from Calgary, and Trevor Nerdahl, a 5th year from Ontario. Big men who may help out include Chris Unsworth a 6’8”, 4th year, and 6’8”, 3rd year, David Neufeld from Saskatoon. Tim Hollman, and Patrick Burns, a pair of 3rd year guards from Saskatoon, will also see action.

2009-10 ... 14-6 ... Canada West and CIS Champs
Prediction ... 2nd or 3rd ... 17 wins - 7 losses
Key games ... Oct. 22.23 at UBC,  Jan. 28/29 at Trinity, Feb. 18/19 at Calgary

Alberta Golden Bears  The Bears have a young team, but have more experience for ‘10-’11, with Canada West Rookie of the Year, Jordan Baker, now a 2nd year, after a summer with Canada’s Development team, and Coach Greg Francis enticing back 5th year guard C.G. Morrison, a shooter who can run the team from the backcourt. Daniel Ferguson, a 6’4”, 4th year scoring wing man, transfer from NCAA Div. 2, Berry College, GA. will help right away, and Ken Otienno, a 6’2”, 2nd year, guard, will also be a starter for the green and gold, along with 6’10” Rob Dewar, another 2nd year. The Bears may not be deep enough to get to the top rung just yet, but they are closer this season. 6'5"Todd Bergen-Henengouwen and 6'10" Nik Manjlovic should contribute on the forward line, while Matthew Cardoza, a speedy guard, will get some minutes in relief as well.

2009-10 ... 10-10 ... lost in the CW quarterfinals
Prediction ... 4th - 6th ... 15 wins - 9 losses
Key games ... Nov. 26/27 UVic at Alberta, Feb. 4/5 at Sask., Feb. 11/12 Calgary at Alberta

Victoria Vikes  With a re-vamped offense and a predictably tough defense, Coach Craig Beaucamp is looking to guide the Vikes into contention near the top of Canada West, after a rare miss of the playoffs last season. He appears to have a good 1-2 punch in Ryan McKinnon, his 5th year wing man, and Jeff Cullen, another 5th year, at the point. they both averaged 11 ppg last season, and they will be keys to the success of the ‘read and cut’ offense. Marco Dolcetti, 6’2”, wing, 5th year, the son of former Vikes All-Canadian post man, has been scoring more in pre-season, and he has Wendell Thomas, a 6’6”, 4th year, to provide speed and power to the front line. Mike Berg, a 6’8”, post, in his 4th year, is a good rebounder, who is becoming more adept at the offensive skills. Calgarian, Pierce Anderson, at 6’7”, is a physical presence in the lane off the bench.  Eric Casey transferred from Alberta, and he will help with the outside shooting, and may feel more comfortable back home on the Island. Another Victoria product is Reese Pribilsky, from Oak Bay HS, the 6 ‘ guard is 1 of 3 rookies who promise good things for Vic in the future. Another 1st year recruit, Ted Neilson, is a 6’6” wing with a shooting touch from Nanaimo, and the Vikes are also high on the potential of 6’10”, Chris McLaughlin, from Ontario.

2009-10 ... 10-10 ... missed the playoffs (vote)
Prediction ... 4th to 7th ...14 wins - 10 losses
Key games ... Oct. 22 /23 Calgary at UVic,  Nov. 12/13 at UFV, Nov. 27/27 at Alberta

Calgary Dinos  Can Tyler Fidler, 4th year, 6’9”, wing, lead a much younger Dinos team to a contending season, helped along by Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson, an incredibly quick, 2nd year, point guard ? The Dinos do have other talents, including an emerging shooter, in 2nd year guard, Andrew McGuinness. A pair of freshmen recruits ... Matt Letkeman, a 6’7”, a physical presence in the post, and 6’4”, Phil Labongo, the 2010 Winnipeg HS Player of the Year, should see considerable floor time. 6’7”, 4th year, post, Dustin Reding, will lend some experience up front, and he will be assisted by 6’7”, 3rd year, transfer, Youri Anissovets, and 6’5”, 2nd year, Dan Tilleman, off the wing. Coach Dan Vanhooren returns Andy Rochon, who was an impressive rookie point man on the 2008-09 squad. 2 other valuable additions are 4th year, guard, Keenan Milburn, and 6’9”, freshman, Josh Wolfram, from South Kamloops HS. The impact of losing Ross Bekkering and Robbie Sihota, both premier scorers, and rebounders, may be more than this team can handle. The Dinos are very young, and it may be a lot to ask of this team to knock off the ‘Big Dogs, and big ‘Birds” of Canada West, but Calgary has built a tradition of winning teams, so the Dinos will compete to keep that rolling.

2009-10 ... 15-5 ... Canada West Finalists
Prediction ... 4th-7th ... 14 wins - 10 losses
Key Games ... Oct. 22/23 at Victoria,  Jan. 7/8 Fraser Valley at UC, Feb. 18/19 Sask. at UC

Fraser Valley Cascades  Coach Barnaby Craddock has to be crushed by the major injuries to 2 starters, Kyle Grewal, and Jasper Moedt, who were expected to be major players on his emerging team. Without these 2 vets, the Cascades are not the contenders they had promised to be. Yes, they still have Zeon Gray, the 4th year shooting guard, and Sam Freeman, a 3rd year backcourt scorer. They return Josh Kufskie, a tough, 3rd year, 6’8” post, and 6’4”, 2nd year, wing, Joel Friesen, and have added Ryan Fahandeg, an athletic, 6’5” transfer from UBC-O. Sheldon Bjorgaard, a 5’11”, point man can be useful, and rookies Spencer Evans, 6’5”, Pitt Meadows, Nathan Kendall, 6’5”, Abbotsford - Yale, show promise. Connor Oldham, a 3rd year transfer from Bellingham, WA will help, but, the goals are not as realistic without Grewal and Moedt. Depth of skill and experience will become a factor, as the season wears on, but Craddock has things moving in Abbotsford, so the Cascades will play some good teams very tough.

2009-10 ... 10-10 ... lost in the CW quarterfinals
Prediction ... 4th - 8th ...12 wins - 12 losses
Key games ... Oct. 29/30 Manitoba at UFV, Nov. 12/13 Victoria at UFV, Jan. 7/8 at Calgary.

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