Monday 12 October 2009

Around the Country: Canada West Update

CANADA WEST: This is the conference which seems to play the fewest CIS-direct pre-season games annually, presumably given the large expenses in travelling the longer distances required to face out-of-conference competition. None of the six teams in Pacific Division have played any meaningful games as of yet, with the exception of Thompson Rivers which lost at home to CCAA's University of Northern B.C. 83-76. Still, CW teams do make trips out east periodically and usually teams from out east visit B.C. as is the case this coming weekend as four CW Pacific division teams including defending national finalist UBC T-Birds, Fraser Valley and Simon Fraser prepare to host both Laval (QSSF) and Windsor (OUA West), starting with UBC hosting Laval and Fraser Valley hosting Windsor on Thursday night. UVic is idle until next weekend when they host the annual Guy Vetrie Memorial tournament with Carleton, Alberta and Fraser Valley visiting the Island. Trinity Western is also idle this coming weekend. In the newly-formed Prairie Division, Alberta Golden Bears made the trip to the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and observers came away impressed with how hard and physical the Bears play, especially defensively. Alberta has size, strength and athleticism, which made offensive possessions against the Bears very tough. In addition, the Bears have several very good young players including a pair of true freshmen in 6'7" Jordan Baker, who has the makings of a future star as a three man, and 6'11" Rob Dewar, who has excellent perimeter skills for a big man, giving first year Head Coach Greg Francis a great foundation for the future. The Bears have an experienced guard in 5'11" Scott Leigh and a solid veteran big man in 6'8" Harvey Bradford however a true point guard who can at a minimum get the offense started and also ideally create off the dribble is an area that needs to be addressed. Despite a 1-2 record over the weekend, the consensus was that Alberta was better than expected and the Bears definitely came away with the respect of many in Southern Ontario so CW fans should expect this team to again compete near the top of the conference. The Bears are idle until their trip to the UVic Vetrie tournament... Brandon Bobcats are looking to integrate several new faces into the lineup and the injury bug has hit early as Moser Award candidate 6'3" Dany Charlery is battling a groin problem that has sidelined him since practice opened in September but is scheduled to start up again this Tuesday. The 'Cats have a couple of new Americans on their roster including 6'1" guard Terril Thomas who should garner big minutes at both guard spots and the addition of steady 6'1" third-year transfer Andrew Kraus is a big plus. Also this past weekend, 6'4" Kyle Vince saw more looks than normal in Charlery's absence and knocked down 5 3's as part of what is believed to be a career-high 28 point effort. Head Coach Keith Vassell (and others) are very impressed thus far with 6'11" freshman James Elias, a mildy-recruited, emerging diamond-in-the-rough from a small, rural school in the agricultural belt in Manitoba who has proven to be a very quick study and is already contributing despite a relative lack of experience playing with/against talent at this level. He is big, strong and plays very hard. Brandon hosts their annual Super 8 tournament this weekend, where they will play the rubber match against Lakehead (the teams split in Thunder Bay this past weekend). Two CCAA schools, Canadian Mennonite University and Red River College (Winnipeg) also will participate in the round robin tourney. Regina Cougars host a pair of U.S. schools, Minot State Beavers, an NAIA DII school, plus Williston State, a junior college from North Dakota, after hammering Medicine Hat College this past weekend. After kicking off the local CIS basketball campaign with the Duckworth Challenge (won by Manitoba), both Winnipeg-based teams travel to the Kitchener/Waterloo region in Ontario as the Wesmen face Brock and host Laurier in the Hawk Challenge (two-games/two-days) while the Bisons are across town at the Naismith Classic at Waterloo where they will meet U of T Varsity Blues, Acadia Axemen and the host Warriors over a three day period. Lethbridge's non-conference schedule includes games exclusively against Montana-based NAIA teams (Lethbridge is only 62 miles from the U.S. border), including four games during the next two weekends away from home. 6'1" Jeff Price has shown early in the season how important he is to the success of the Pronghorns and expect the ultra-competitive guard to embrace his leadership role. The Horns other starters are expected to be 6'3" Danhue Lawrence (Toronto), 6'4" Red River College transfer Randy Davis, 6'5" Robin Cooper (Toronto) and last season's freshman find, 6'7" Derek Waldner. 6'1" Quinn Van Gaalen returns after an injury redshirt season and has accepted a role off the bench designed to bring instant offense to the lineup. Saskatchewan makes the trek out east to our Nation's Capital to participate in the House/Laughton tournament at Carleton along with Bishop's and UPEI. Meanwhile, Calgary is idle this weekend.

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