TWU / UNBC – Small School Challenges


Spartans and Timberwolves Face an Uphill Path

–  2016-17 Canada West Basketball Previews –

These 2 B.C. schools are among the smallest, by population, in Canada West, and have quite a task in trying to match the resources and recruiting power of many of the larger programs. Despite this, the TWU Spartans, about 6-8 years ago were very competitive in this League with the likes of Jacob Doerksen, Brian Banman, and Jason Keegstra.  UNBC has yet to make that kind of impact, but  Coach Todd Jordan and his boys were 12-8 just 2 years ago with Rhys Elliott and Franko Kouagnia leading the way.

With this new 17 team League, there are now games against some of the much bigger schools for the T’Wolves, and Trinity is definitely in a ‘re-building phase’.  Both teams have some new faces who should help the cause for the upcoming year, but ‘it’s never easy’.

Trinity Western Spartans
No playoffs                  1 win   19 losses      (Pioneer Division)

Returnees – TWU copy
4th years –  4th years – Peter Spangehl, 6-3 wing, Surrey, BC.  Pogos Trunyan, 6-2, guard, (red-shirt last yr), Sacramento, CA … 3rd years – Tyus Allen, 6-1, guard,  White Rock, BC.  Vartan Tanielian, 6-4 guard, Surrey. Patrick Vandervelden, 6-10 forward, 3rd, Abbotsford.  Josiah Allison,  6-2, guard, 3rd, Abbotsford.  Eric Rogers, 6-4 guard,  Chilliwack.   2nd year –  Matt Hayashi, 7-1 post,  Langley … 1st year- Nathan Allison,  6-0 guard (redshirt ’15-’16), Abbotsford.

New faces –   Nick Smith, 6-4 fwd, 3rd,   Surrey (Kwantlen Poly U.). Max Viitala, 3rd, G, 6-5,  Melbourne, AUS  , Ambrose Univ. Coll., (Calgary).  Taturs Maberry, 6-6 post, 3rd, Pasadena, CA  (Los Angeles Valley Col.), Josiah Meppelink,  6-3 guard, 1st,   Langley ( Lynden Christian) Nigel Boyd, 6-3 guard, 1st,   Richmond  (Steveston- London), Aaron Paetkau, 6-5 wing, 1st, Parksville BC (Ballenas), Daniel Stead, 6-7 Wing, 1st, Langley (Walnut Grove), Justin Robinson, 6-1 guard, 1st,   Maple Ridge,  ( Maple Ridge Christian), Ben Reddy, 6-3 guard, 1st,  Victoria (Lambrick Park)


California transfer, Pogos Trunyan (L) and returnee post man, Patrick Vandervelden (L) will be key to the fortunes of TWU.

With a young team coming off a very difficult ’15-’16 season, Coach Aaron Muhic starts his 2nd season at TWU counting on some of his returnees to bring a higher skill level and the determination to help the team move up. “The guys have a good team attitude, and we’re happy with how they work together”, said Muhic. “We certainly have challenges, but we also feel we have the pieces to make things better this year.”

Guard, Tyus Allen, who returns after a year off, “ … may have to shake the rust off,” says the coach, “but he has the skill and experience to be a leader.”  Muhic also points to 3rd year guard, Josiah Allison, who has shown “an aggressive style, and looks good in early workouts.”  Guard, Vartan Tanielian, and big forward, Patrick Vandervelden, should be set for impactful seasons with more playing experience.  Coach Muhic also has high hopes for 2nd year tower, Matt Hayashi, who, the coach tells us, “Is working hard, and starting to get more comfortable with his role.”

Pogos Trunyan played for Coach Muhic in the California College League, and he will be expected to give the Spartans scoring and floor leadership, after red-shirting in Langley in 2015-16. “He is eager to go, and has adapted very well to the International style of play, and his academic program at TWU”, says Muhic. Another import, Taturs Maberry, is a candidate for valuable contributions in scoring and rebounding. Local recruit, Joseph Meppelink, is a very capable high school grad, who has the size and skill to get him into the playing rotation.

Schedule –  Nov/Dec – at UBC-O, home and home vs Fraser Valley, at UNBC, vs Regina, vs Lethbridge   …  Jan/Feb –   at Winnipeg, vs Manitoba, at Victoria, at Mt. Royal, vs UBC   Prediction –  Will improve, but tough to reach the top 12

U. Northern BC Timberwolves
’15-’16 – No playoffs                 4 wins    16 losses  (Explorer Division)

Returnees – 5th years – Rhys Elliott,  6-1 guard, Adelaide, Aus. Elliot Rowe, 5-9 guard, Victoria   … 4th years –  Marcus MacKay, 6-4 wing, Terrace, BC.  Nolan Hanson, 6-1 guard, Prince George.  Austin Chandler, 6-6 fwd, Wenatchee, WA  … 3rd years – Vaggelis Loukas, 6-5 fwd, Athens, GR  … 2nd years – Anthony Hokanson, 6-5 fwd, Vancouver.  Saje Gosal, 6-5 wing, Golden, BC.  Neal Randhawa, 6-4 guard, Golden.UNBC copy
New faces –   James Agyeman, 5-11 guard, 3rd,  Brampton, ON (tsf- W. Laurier). Sam Zhang, 6-4 fwd, Pitt Meadows, BC (tsf Capilano Coll.) . Tyrell Laing, 6-0 guard, 1st year, Prince George (Prince George).  (RS) Volodymyr Pluzhnikov, 6-0 guard, Kharkiv, Ukraine (MBC Mykolaiv – Ukraine Superleague).

Todd Jordan, now in his 8th season in Prince George as Head Coach, is hoping 2016-’17 brings a little less pain than last year.  Injuries took away key players for far too many games, and it was tough to get any continuity.  “We were were going with a patch-work lineup from one series to the next”, said Jordan.

The Timberwolves get Nolan Hanson back after he missed almost all of ’15-’16, and Anthony Hokanson, Sam Zhang, and James Agyeman are now available.  Agyeman, a transfer from Laurier of the OUA, can step in as a skilled point man, and boost the guard corps. He and a healthy 5th year stalwart, Elliot Rowe ,should be a good combo at that spot. Rhys Elliott, another 5th year player,  returns as the ‘Wolves leading scorer (18 ppg, 7th in Canada West, 5 rebs and 2.3 assists.)

Two offensive threats for UNBC - Rhys Elliott (L) and Marcus MacKay (R)

Two offensive threats for UNBC – Rhys Elliott (L) and Marcus MacKay (R)

“We’ve had a good ‘off-season’”, says Jordan. “The guys have come back in great shape, and we have more experience as a whole team.”   Jordan says he is looking to several returnees to have significantly better campaigns, including wing, Marcus MacKay, a real 3 point threat.  Vaggelis Loukas will also be a key leader, with his toughness, scoring ability, and maturity as a player.

Rebounding is a focus for UNBC, as they struggled to meet their goals last year.  Jordan says, “We definitely know we have to improve, and everyone needs to play a part, if we want to get our share every game.”  The ‘Wolves take care of the ball very well, and have quality depth on the perimeter to ensure that continues.  Finding an interior presence on offense, and at least fighting to a draw on the boards are top priorities.

“This League gets very interesting as we meet the ‘Pioneer‘ schools, and every weekend is big if we are to contend for a playoff spot”, says Coach Jordan. “Maybe we can surprise a few favourites as our team comes together; we know the guys will work hard, and we think we will give it a good run.”

Schedule –  Nov/Dec – at Winnipeg, vs Alberta, vs Trinity Western, at Fraser Valley, vs Thompson Rivers,   Jan/Feb –  at Lethbridge, vs Mt. Royal, at Manitoba, at UBC, vs Saskatchewan     Prediction –  Tough road to  playoffs


Does size of schools matter ?inthebleachers-jumpball

If we looked at Canada West as an ocean, we’d be seeing whales, shrimp and everything in between.  From UBC, the big whale, to Northern B.C. a relative minnow in school population, this League has a wide array of school sizes.

Can schools the size of an average city high school hope to match the ‘big boys’?


The big fish, like UBC, Alberta, Calgary, and Manitoba very much dwarf the Trinity Westerns and UNBC’s out there.  It means financial resources, facilities, and ‘name recognition’.

Brandon is one school that, in the Coach Jerry Hemmings era, overcame this disadvantage, and the ‘Cats won multiple Great Plains titles and 4 National Championships.  But this may be too big a stretch for most of our really small schools.

TRU went to Nationals with a strong core of experienced and talented players last season, and Fraser Valley has had a couple of championship looks.  It remains to be seen how often the ‘small guys’ can buck the trend.

After all, who has won Canada West?   It has been Victoria 16 times, Alberta 11, UBC 9, Calgary 5, and Saskatchewan, Lethbridge, and Brandon 1 apiece.

(Note- We are not counting Great Plains titles won by Brandon, Manitoba, Regina, or Winnipeg)


Overtime –

  • The Guy Vetrie Invitational (Sept. 29 – Oct. 1) has Victoria  hosting McMaster, McGill, and Regina , and fans can watch live video on Canada West TV .   Thursday games – 6 pm (Pacific) McGill vs McMaster, 8 pm Vikes vs Regina, Friday – Regina-McMaster at 6, UVic – McGill at 8, and Saturday – Regina-McGill at 5 pm ,  Victoria vs McMaster at 7 pm.

Wolf Pack Add Import Talent


Import transfer , Sean Price, should bolster TRU line-up.

Import transfer , Sean Price, should bolster TRU line-up.



Thompson Rivers Still A Contender

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 3.36.03 PMThe 2013-14 Wolf Pack had a League record of 13-9, to qualify for the Canada West playoffs for the 1st time in school history;  they lost in 2 straight at Saskatchewan, then, after the announcement of League re-alignment, several roster players decided to leave the program.  Notably, import wing, Ta’Quan Zimmerman, their high scorer at 19.6 ppg, and 6-7 forward, Will Ondrik (10 ppg/4.5 rebs).

Jwolfram copy

TRU forward, Josh Wolfram, has size and a great shooting touch.

But, this is now … as  5th year Coach Scott Clark suggests, “We can only play the cards we’re dealt.”  And this year’s TRU squad still returns 6 players, including the 6-10, 4th year, Josh Wolfram (Kamloops), who averaged 13.5 ppg and led the team in rebounding at 7.9 rpg.  The ‘Pack also return their ace point man, 6-2, Reese Pribilsky, also a 4th year, who delivered 4.1 assists/game ( with an outstanding 1.46 asst/turnover ratio), plus 8.5 ppg and 3 rebs.

The trio of 5th year players will give Coach Clark additional leadership;  Tallon Milne, a 6-7 forward, had 5.6 rebs, 8.5 ppg, and was the team’s top % shooter at 60% from the floor. Brett Rouault, a 6-4 wing, shot 42% from 3 point range, and 6-4 Brett Parker has good shooting range as well.  3rd year wing, Gerrard Gore, at 6-4 , has the physical tools to defend and rebound very well (3.9 rpg, 5.3 ppg).

Recruiting went well for Coach Clark, as he signed local high school stand-out, Joe Davis (Kamloops, Westsyde), a 6-6 forward, about whom Clark comments, “I like his physicality, that he doesn’t back away from contact; he seeks it out. He won’t back down against whoever he is playing at any level. He is a good fit for us.”  Another strong B.C. high school grad is Toronto native, Josh Mayorga, a 6-4 shooting guard, who played at Walnut Grove (Langley, B.C.), where he sparked his team to a B.C. Boys 4A title in 2013. Ismail Abdulahi is a rookie , 5-10 guard from Lambrick Park, Victoria, who will be an understudy for Pribilsky.

Two imports look like good acquisitions – 3rd year guard, Victor Aquero (Portland, OR) played at Big Bend Community Coll., and is described as a sharp, 6-0 floor – leader , who, Clarks says, “  .. is a guy who looks to score with the basketball, and it never stops in his hands.”  From Vancouver, WA comes 3rd year, 6-3 guard, Sean Price (Clark College),  a 26 year old who led his college team at 21.5 ppg until injuries forced him out of action for several years.

The pre-season starts Thursday with Columbia Bible College, the from Oct 17-19 the ‘Pack are in Vancouver to play at UBC’s Tournament vs Western (Ontario), and Windsor, then at Simon Fraser, where Clark coached for 15 years. On Oct. 24/25 TRU plays at UBC-O’s Tournament vs Laurentian and Trinity Western.

To cap off their Fall schedule, the Wolf Pack will be slight underdogs, as they travel to Spokane to take on perennial power-house, Gonzaga, on Saturday, Nov. 1.  The Explorer Div. League schedule tips off with the ‘Pack at home against UNBC on Nov. 7/8.


Alberta’s Canada West Teams Tip-off in Calgary Cup

5th year, Calgary forward Phil Barndt

5th year, Calgary forward Phil Barndt, leads Dinos rebounding

The Calgary Dinos and Mt.Royal Cougars will co-host the Alberta Golden Bears and Lethbridge Pronghorns this Thursday and Friday, Oct. 9-10.  The Bears, the reigning CW champs, will be favoured in both games, and are coming off 2 wins in 3 starts at the Guy Vetrie Memorial in Victoria (Ws over UVic and Bishop’s, L to Carleton).

'Horns high scoring forward, Brandon Brine, left

‘Horns high scoring forward, Brandon Brine, left

Lethbridge, after a pair of convincing home wins over a very young UBC-O team last weekend, have a strong forward corps led by 2 imports,  6-7 Brandon Brine (Australia) and 6-10  Brent Watkins (California).  The ‘Horns made the playoffs last year with a 15-7 mark, while the Bears led the League at 20-2, and advanced all the way to the CIS semi-final and a bronze medal. U of A have a solid group of returning vets from that team, including potent scorers Ken Otieno and Joel Friesen, and their 2 talented Quebec ‘imports’ , point man Youssef Ouahrig, and forward, Mamadou Gueye.

Alberta's Joel Friesen

Alberta’s  slick wing-man, Joel Friesen

The Dinos have 2 outstanding 5th year leaders in guard, Jarred Ogungbemi -Jackson, who led all Canada West scorers last season (20.6 ppg, 7 rebs) and import forward, Phil Barndt (Montana), who was the team’s top rebounder at 7.6 rpg, plus 12 ppg. The Dinos want to improve on a 7-15 League record, and have a mix of 7 returnees and 7 new faces on the playing roster.

MRU Cougars' multi-talented, Deng Awak.

MRU Cougars’ multi-talented, Deng Awak.

The Cougars were 9-13 last season, and have most of their top players back, including their high scorer, Awet Abraha, a 6-3 wing from Calgary (McNally), and 2 other 5th year players, the dynamic guard Deng Awak (Brooks), and forward Kyle Wilson (Chestermere). MRU will count on their speed and defensive quickness to make for a lack of size up front.




The schedule –  Thursday –  Lethbridge at Mt. Royal, 8 pm … Alberta at Calgary, 8 pm

Friday –  Alberta at MRU, 1 pm  …  Lethbridge at Calgary , 8 pm.


Other Canada West Teams in Action This Week –

Thurs.- Fraser Valley at Trinity Western, Algoma at Brandon, Columbia Bible Coll. at Thompson Rivers, Lakeland Coll. at Saskatchewan, UBC vs Vancouver ‘Balloholics’, MacEwan vs Waterloo at the Naismith Classic, ON.

Friday – Acadia at Brandon, MacEwan vs Nipissing, Regina at Winnipeg

Saturday – Acadia at Brandon, Regina at Manitoba, MacEwan vs Queen’s


Overtime –

  • MRU Coach, Marc Dobell, announced the disappointing injury update from 6-6 Ray Goff (Okotoks, AB), who will be red-shirted this season after suffering a knee-injury in training.  Goff was a key member of a thinning Cougars’ forward group, and his absence will be felt.
  • The Women’s teams for the 4 Alberta schools play their own Calgary Cup this week as well –  Thursday – Alberta at UC, 6 pm … Lethbridge at MRU, 6 pm. Friday – Lethbridge at Calgary, 6 pm … Alberta at MRU for an early game, 11 AM.
  • Nice to hear that the legendary Brandon Coach, Jerry Hemmings, will be doing the colour commentary again this season on Canada -West TV home games for the Bobcats.