T’Birds Boast Imposing Depth



T-Birds have unfinished business

It’s not often that a coach admits he is 100% satisfied with his recruiting and his roster, but UBC’s veteran mentor, Kevin Hanson (18th year) appears awfully close.  “We did very well, and no one (recruit) said no”, says Hanson.  This has the T’Birds, who were 19-1 in Canada West play last season, looking for a repeat, and then more fortune at play-off time. After major disappointment in the post season last Spring, this is a team looking for something special.

“Things happen from week to week”, says the coach. “Injuries, illness … we felt that we needed more depth.”  Well, they have it now, in spades!  5 new faces counting  , Jauquin Bennett-Boire, the explosive2nd year lead guard who red-shirted last season.  Add in the heralded arrival of 6-10 Grant Shephard (Kelowna), who chose UBC over chances in the NCAA ranks.  Mason Bourcier is a 6-4 guard who played with Shephard at Kelowna Sr. Sec.  A pair of former Toronto high school guards, 6-3 Anthony McNish, and 6-4 Grant Audu, come from a year’s play in U.S. high schools.

Conor Morgan, now a 5th year, returns to chase a title for UBC   Photo – T-Birds Athletics

Two more young local recuits will be red-shirting;  the T’Birds, after all, do return 6 – 8 roster players from last season.  Three 5th years  head that list, led by 6-9 Conor Morgan (Victoria), the 2017 Canada West player of the year, along with point man, 6-2, Phil Jalalpoor (Germany), and 6-8 Luka Zaharijevic (Vancouver).

Taylor Browne (Surrey) returns as a fast-rising 3rd year guard, who “worked hard on his game over the summer”, and can be a valuable complimentary scorer and creator on offense. Patrick Simon (Port Coquitlam) is a 4th year, 6-8 post , and guards Isaiah Familia (Windsor, ON) and Izaiah Ugoalah (Vancouver) are in the mix.

“We are still working on our different combinations.  Certainly, we have a great group here; I’m excited to coach these guys. We want to focus on team, and getting them to jell and work together”, says Hanson.  The 5- time Canada West coach of the year exclaims, “I feel energized, and hungry to make this a very good team.”

‘The Bazooka’ trains with a purpose

In high school, at nearby Kitsilano Sr. Secondary, Luka Zaharijevic, was a legendary star, who scored at will with a 6-8 frame carrying as much as 300 lbs.  Dubbed ‘Luka, The Bazooka’, he stood out for many reasons.  On arriving at

Luka Zaharijevic is a 5th year UBC post man.  Photo – T’Birds Athletics

UBC, Luka played few minutes as he was behind more mature post men.  His size wasn’t helping, because his fitness wasn’t what it should have been.  “We’ve wanted to start Luka in the last couple of seasons”, says Coach  Hanson, “But he was hurt, and he was never quite ready.”  “This past Spring and Summer, Luka has dedicated himself to preparing for a big final year.”  The transformation has been impressive, as Hanson tells us the young man has pursued his training with a vengeance.  He is, reportedly, eating better, ‘riding his bike all over town’, and focused on his post game skills.

In lthe Waterloo game last weekend the big man was 8/9 for 17 points in just 13 minutes;  he looks ready to step in as one of the T-Birds big weapons up front.  With an eye to a possible pro opportunity, Luka is determined to make his 5th year one to remember.

Weekend Sweeps Move Teams Up



Love the Sweep !   Teams on the rise …

The UBC Thunderbirds made the biggest ‘statement’ of the Canada West season with their 102-76 battering of the Alberta Golden Bears on Saturday in Vancouver.  Their 2 game sweep of the Bruins puts the ‘Birds at 11-1 with building confidence in the quality of their depth and determination as a potential CW champion. UBC is not just Conor Morgan, but have the gritty leader, Jordan Jensen-Whyte, and another 5th year stand-out in 6-7 Will Ondrik.  As their ‘supporting cast’ deliver performances like those of Luka Zaharajevic, Taylor Browne, and A.J. Holloway vs the ‘GBs’, we see the T-Birds as the favourites to host the Final 4 in early March.

The Saskatchewan Huskies (8-4) won 2 ‘bonus RPI’ games at Lethbridge this past weekend, and are looking more like a top 4 contender with their deeper playing roster. Since his arrival after semester 1, import guard Lawrence Moore (3rd yr, 6-3, Chicago) has averaged 14 ppg and 4.8 assists.  Jaylan Morgan (3rd, 6-5, Toronto) is stepping up his game, and, when he returns from injury, Chan De Ciman will add to the mix.  Then, of course, the Green and White have the formidable post pair of Shane Osayande (18.7 ppg/ 11 rebs) and Matt Forbes (13.3 ppg/ 8.3 rebs).

The Calgary Dinos (10-2) get a weekend home sweep over Fraser Valley, one a 106-68 blow-out, but the 2nd a somewhat shaky 92-87 last minute win.  UC will have to sort out the consistency of their effort as they welcome the aforementioned ‘Sled Dogs’ to town this Friday and Saturday. This is the feature match-up this week in Canada West. Can Thomas Cooper get back to his prolific scoring ways?  Can the Dinos defend the Huskies bigs?  Can Calgary use their vaunted depth to turn aside the advancing Prairie power?

Bisons guard, Justus Alleyn

The Manitoba Bisons (6-6) have started on their hopeful drive to 10-0 leap up the standings in this 2nd semester.  They brush aside the fading Regina Cougars (6-6) with 2 convincing road wins behind veterans Justus Alleyn and Keith Omoerah.  A trip this week to Trinity Western is unlikely to slow the rumbling Herd, who have plans to keep climbing the League table.

The Victoria Vikes (5-7) return home with fresh hope after 2 wins at UBC-O, the 1st Vikes sweep of the season.  Their challenge this week will be to defend home court against a tougher opponent, the Lethbridge Pronghorns (8-6). Can rookie Scott Kellum match the ‘Horn’s main man, Dejon Burdeaux?  UVic has little wriggle room as they vie for a playoff spot, but UL will be wanting to turn things around after 2 home losses.

Josh Ross has been a catalyst for the Cougars attack

The Mt. Royal Cougars get a pair of road victories at UNBC to move to 7-5, and their forward duo of Josh Ross and Brett Layton are giving the Cougs reason for optimism. Uo next for this under-rated former college power?  Oh,just  a home court visit from the mighty Thunderbirds !  MRU will step on Kenyon Court as decided underdogs, with UBC rolling more troops off their bench .Win one of these, and the Cougars will draw even more lavish praise.



5th Year players on a final tour  …

Many of these 5th year players across the 17-team Canada West will be very familiar to faithful fans.  Most with skills we’ve come to appreciate, some who’ve made a big play to beat our home team, and some who’ve captured accolades, trophies, and championships.  A tribute is in order to these 5th years, the great majority of whom will be finishing off a degree and moving on to a very different phase of their lives.

Here’s a list of these 5th year players … give them a hand as they play in your gym for what may well be the last time.

Alberta – Brett Roughead … Brandon –  Earl Thompson Jr, Denham Buchanan, Chris Stanhope, Esmat Atem … Calgary Dinos – Jasdeep Gill, Thomas Cooper, Dallas Karch … Fraser Valley – Manny Dulay, Vijay Dhillon … Lethbridge – Will Hickey … MacEwan – Denzel James, Keith Gerdes, Thomas Jereniuk, Cole Aikens … Mt. Royal – Derek Wolf … Regina – Aaron McGowan, Travis Sylvestre, Stephen Shields, Matthew Augustine … Saskatchewan –  Matthew Forbes, Trevor Severinski … Thompson Rivers – Volodymyr Iegorov … UBC – Jordan Jensen-Whyte , Will Ondrik … UBC-O – Mitch Goodwin …  UNBC – Rhys Elliot, Elliot Rowe, Sam Zhang … Victoria – Grant Sitton … Winnipeg – Jamar Farley


Scores from the East  on Sunday –

Atlantic – at UNB 93 Memorial 79,  at Saint Marys 75 # 8 Dalhousie  71 …one more season in the AUS where we see the teams in the 6 team League run hot and cold from one weekend to the next.  Memorial Seahawks were flying high last week at 7-3 atop the standings, but lose 2 at UNB.  UPEI move from 2-7 to 4-7 with last second wins at St. FX and Cape Breton (the only predictable team left).   So, despite their loss to their  ‘down the street’ rival Saint Marys, the Dal Tigers lead at 7-3, with X and UNB 7-4, and Memorial now 4th at 7-5.  On any given night ….


The big game in U-Sports this week is Tuesday’s first matchup of the season at U. Ottawa’s Montpetit Hall  between the twin 9-0 ‘Bytown Bullies’, the #1 Carleton Ravens and #2 Ottawa Gee-Gees.  The ‘Ponies’ swept this series last year, but, as they do, the Blackbirds came on at playoff time to claim yet another CIS Championship.  Many of the faces are the same, with Connor Wood and Kaza Kajami-Keane guiding the ravens, and Caleb Agada still powering Ottawa.  New faces include big Eddie Ekiyor for Carleton and Adam Presutti a key transfer from McMaster, now in Gee-Gees colours for his final season.   Fans can watch live on OUA-TV  (8 pm Eastern)  TUESDAY –  RAVENS vs GEE-GEES

Here are the Divisional standings in the 17 team OUA, where they also use RPI to seed their season -end Wilson Cup play-offs.


UBC boss Kevin Hanson

Overtime –

  • UBC Coach Kevin Hanson, after his T-Birds’ thrashing of Aberta on Saturday, “The way our three leaders (Morgan, Jensen-Whyte, Ondrik) started the game, they brought so much confidence,” began Hanson. “And they just seemed to transfer that energy to the rest of the team. It was free-flowing energy and when our bench came in, they just carried on with no fear of failure.” From Howard Tsumura, The Province
  • TRU’s rookie, Trent Monkman, on his more significant role in helping the Wolves to a home win on Saturday over Winnipeg, “It was a bit of a special one. It was a big game for us — we were coming off a loss — and it felt good to have a bit of an impact,” the native of Smithers said. “It feels good that the coaches are trusting me a little bit to get in there and show what I can do.” From an Adam Williams story in Kamloops the Week    



T-Birds Loaded For Battle


2016-17 Canada West  Previews –

UBC Thunderbirds

 ’15-‘16 –  3rd at CW Final 4,  Host Nationals                 Wins 16   losses  4    (Pioneer)

Returnees –    5th years – Jordan Jensen-Whyte, 6-6 wing, Calgary. Will Ondrik, 6-7  UBC T-Birdwing, Vernon, BC.  … 4th Year – Conor Morgan, 6-9 wing, Victoria. Phil Jalalpoor,  Germany. Luka Zaharajevic, 6-7 forward, Vancouver. A.J. Holloway, 6-2 guard, Tacoma, WA.  … 3rd Years – Patrick Simon, 6-8 forward, Port Coquitlam, BC.… 2nd Years – Roger Milne, 6-8 forward, Winnipeg. Taylor Browne, 6-2 guard, Surrey, B.C.

New faces –   Isaiah Familia, 6-2 guard, 1st year, Windsor, ON (Holy Names HS).   Izaiah Ugoalah, 6-5 guard, 1st, Vancouver (Sir W. Churchill).  Justin McChesney, 6-10 forward, 1st, Prince Rupert, B.C., (Charles Hays Sr.)

 From his start at UBC in 2000 through the ’15-’16 season, Coach Kevin Hanson has a .750 winning percentage in Canada West League play.   Money !       So,  barring any major upset, we can safely assume this season’s Thunderbirds will be near the top of the 17 team loop once again.

The ‘Birds have experience, and they’re high quality returnees at that!  Jordan Jensen-Whyte, formerly a rangy, slim point man, has morphed into a bruising slasher at the wing.  He averaged 15 ppg, 48% from the floor, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists.  Conor Morgan is a very tall, inside-outside offensive force, and should improve on last year’s ‘pretty good’ numbers – 14.8 ppg/ 7.3 rebounds / 1.5 blocks per game.

Luka Zaharajevic is getting his shot at making a big impact for UBC.

Luka Zaharijevic is getting his shot at making a big impact for UBC.    photo- UBC -Wilson Wong

A less well-known character, outside of Point Grey and Kitsilano areas in Vancouver, is 6-7, 255 lb post man, Luka ‘The Bazooka’ Zaharijevic.  Big Luka recently laid a career high 24 point/ 8 rebound game on the visiting Lethbridge Pronghorns, and Hanson said, “We’re very proud of him. He’s worked so hard, in dropping 25 lbs.  He could be great!  He’s a thick bodied, massive guy.  He hurts guys in practice!”

On the perimeter, UBC counts on Phil Jalalpoor at the point, with AJ Holloway and Taylor Browne both back, and looking ready to contribute even more this year.  Two rookies who are sure to get some attention are the two Iz(s)aiahs,  Isaiah Familia and Izaiah Ugoalah, a pair of tall, athletic shooters with great upside.  Familia was ‘Mr. Basketball’ in Windsor, ON the last 2 years in high school, and the coach says, “He’s a gamer … better than we even thought he’d be.”

Justin McChesney is a very big rookie, and, according to Hanson, “ … a diamond in the rough.”  Initially projected as a red-shirt, the Prince Rupert post man has played his way onto the 12-man roster.

We could go on.  We should.  They also have Will Ondrik, a tough, tall defender, and  two big forwards, Patrick Simon and Roger Milne off the bench. Suffice it to say that the T’Birds are loaded, and they want to get back to Nationals after hosting last year.  By their early season form, we could easily see that happening, if all the pieces fall into place.  But those pieces certainly appear to be there!

(* Credit to the Province podcast ‘Varsity Letters’ , with host Howard Tsumura interviewing Kevin Hanson last week)

Schedule –  Nov-Dec – at Thompson Rivers, bye, Manitoba, home/home Victoria, UBC-O – 4 series   Jan-Feb – at Saskatchewan, Alberta, at Mt. Royal, Brandon, UNBC, at Trinity W  – 6 series in the 2nd half.

 Prediction –  The ‘Birds should fly high.  A solid contender for League honours.



Overtime –

  • UBC has a big red-shirt group, including the talented, but unpredictable Jauquin Bennett-Boire, who started for Saskatchewan as a rookie last Fall, but dropped out of school at Christmas.  Still with the T-Birds football team is Parker Simson, a highly recruited guard / QB from Kelowna.  Coach Hanson says, “ He’s a tough, gritty competitor with a championship attitude.” Due to the football schedule his status with the hoops squad is a bit unsure.
  • On the topic of pre-season schedules … See Canada this Fall !  Play for the Regina Cougars ! … 10 games so far, from Victoria to Calgary,  day trip to Brandon, off to St. Catharines, ON, and a bus ride to Lethbridge this week for #11-12.  On the other hand, we have Fraser Valley, with a couple of short cab rides for some B.C. College scrimmages, and 2 home games vs Lethbridge and Laurier.  At least the Cascades are hitting all their classes !

Sunday Wins For Huskies, Bobcats, Bears, Vikes




Huskies Offense Clicks into Gear Sunday –


At the UBC-O  Heat Tournament –  Saskatchewan 89  MacEwan  70-  The Huskies find their offensive rhythm against a competitive Mac team, which had won 2 straight to start proceedings in Kelowna.  U of S returns home next week for their own Tournament (Calgary, Algoma, Red Deer College).

 at UBC 101  Lethbridge   73 –  The T-Birds record a 2nd thorough beating of the touring Pronghorns, as their offence rolls freely. The ‘Birds hit 49% from he floor vs 36% for the ‘Horns, and the home team claims 47 rebounds against 34 for U of L. 25 turnovers by the visitors gave UBC more offensive chances. Big Luka Zaharijevic counted 24 points/ 8 rebounds inside, while Conor Morgan scored 21 points / 8 boards.  Lethbridge got 19 points/ 8 rebounds from British import, Elliott Sentance.  Box Score


 Brandon    69  at Valley City St. (ND)  67 – In their 3rd game in 3 nights, with last 2 on the road, Coach Gil Cheung’s Bobcats get win #1 of their busy pre-season.

In the East –

at the Carleton Ravens Tournament in Ottawa –   Carleton 80 Western Ontario 59  –  The Ravens go 3-0 in their House Laughton Invitational.  We are always surprised when a team can come within 20 points!   Victoria  70  Laval  61 –  This is a good road in for the Vikes, who have found a bit of a groove  defensively.  Laval is considered a contender in the Quebec League this season, and UVic wins 2 straight to finish the Carleton Tournament.

at the Queen’s Golden Gaels Tournament in Kingston –  Alberta  90 Memorial  64 –  The Golden Bears win 2 straight in Kingston, with a big margin over an out-matched Sea Hawks team.  UBC transfer, Geoff Pippus scores 16 on 6/9 FG shooting, going 4/4 from 3 point range. Rookie, Andre Kelly continues to impress with 15 points/ 4 rebs off the bench.  Bears hit 15/32 from outside.   Ottawa 64 Queens  60 –  The Gaels use home court to push the visiting Gee-Gees to the brink.  Ottawa wins the Tournament with a 3-0 record.  Box Score

 Ottawa 64 Queens  60 –  The Gaels use home court to push the visiting Gee-Gees to the brink.  Ottawa wins the Tournament with a 3-0 record.

at the Mickey Place Tourn. in CharlottetownDalhousie 70 Concordia 69 –  The Tigers continue to look like a favourite in the Atlantic, as they edge a strong Concordia team.  The Stingers give notice that they will contend in the Q. also  UPEI 87  Maine – Ft. Kent 78

 In other games in Ontario –Toronto 82  Carrloll U. (Illinois) 74,  Ryerson 98  Ashland U.(Ohio)   76


Who ‘Won’ the Fall Season ?

Import guard, Dean Richey, is a great addition for TWU. photo- Spartans Athletics

Import guard, Dean Richey, is a great addition for TWU.                       photo- Spartans Athletics

The ‘Fall Season’ is in the books –  with the Canada West regular season getting underway this Friday, Nov. 6.  Here are the Saturday results, followed by a review of what our 17 teams have done this Fall.

Saturday Games-

Cougars Grab Road Win Over Spartans –

Mt. Royal  65  at Trinity Western 58 – the Cougars get a road win in Langley with a workmanlike defensive effort, which stifles the TWU attack for much of the game. Neither team shoots it well as Mount Royal is 33% and Trinity 30% from the floor. Leading the way for Mt. Royal is James Lefebvre with 17 points and Derek Wolf adds 10 points and eight rebounds; the game high scorer is Dean Richey for the Spartans with 21 points and 9 rebounds.   Box Score

at UBC   117  Evergreen State 76 – for the 2nd night running the T-Birds use their size to great effect, as they dominate the inside against the visiting GeoDucks. In his best performance for UBC, 2nd year post, Luka Zaharijevic scores 21 points on 10 of 12 shooting, while Conor Morgan tallies 20 points and 10 rebounds, with three other ‘Birds in double figures. UBC shot 57% from the floor and controlled the boards with 54 rebounds versus just 29 for ESU. Box Score

Josh Wolfram and his TRU 'mates are perfect in the pre-season.

Josh Wolfram and his TRU ‘mates are perfect in the pre-season.        photo – TRU Athletics

at Lethbridge 89 Montana-Western 83-  the Horns turn the tables on their visitors after a cool start, but a strong, 55 point second half in Lethbridge on Halloween night. Both Dejon Burdeaux  and Rob Olsen scored 21 points for Lethbridge, with Burdeaux adding 6 assists and 6 rebounds.    Box Score

In Kirkland, WA … TRU Wolf Pack  74  North West U. Eagles  72  – the ‘Pack win a road game with clutch free throws from Reese Pribilsky in the last seconds, as he completes a 16 point/10 assist game. TRU also get 17 points from Josh Wolfram and 16 from Volodymyr Iegorov  claim their 6th win in 7 preseason games.  Box Score  

in LaGrande , Oregon …  Coll. of Idaho 88  Victoria 59  –  Lots about the ‘Yotes , as there is no box score.  Justin Kinnear leads UVic with 17 points.  That’s   Recap


Fall Season – complete results (games are vs CIS or U.S. teams)

No one wins any League points or Championship Cups in the Fall, but you get a sense of how the teams might compete.  In the Pioneer, Saskatchewan, Calgary, UBC had strong showings … Lethbridge looked good, at times, as did Winnipeg … As for the Explorers – both Fraser Valley and Thompson Rivers continue to impress in the ‘Big 6’.

Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 11.28.06 PM

The Dinos looked good in October, now we wait for Canada West League play !

Pioneer Division Teams – 

Alberta – 2-5     Wins over Guelph, UNBC …  Losses to Ottawa, Memorial (NL), Calgary, Mt. Royal, Queen’s

Brandon- 2-3    Wins Over  MacEwan, Dakota-Bott….  Losses to Brock, Manitoba, Winnipeg

Calgary – 6-1   Wins Over Saskatchewan, Mt. Royal (2), Alberta, Regina, Cape Breton …Loss to  St. FX

Lethbridge – 6-3  Wins Over  UBC-O, Montana-Western (2), MacEwan, Queen’s, UNBC …Losses to UBC-O, Rocky Mtn. Coll, Mont-West.

Manitoba – 1-5 Win over Brandon … Losses to Lakehead (2), MacEwan, Brock, Fraser Valley

Regina – 3-5  Wins Ove Miles C.C., Dawson CC, Acadia… Losses to Windsor, Concordia, Saskatchewan, UPEI, Calgary

Saskatchewan – 6-2   Wins Over Fraser Valley, Carleton, Victoria, Mt. Royal, Windsor, Regina … Losses to Calgary, Concordia,

Trinity Western – 1-5      Win Over Evergreen State … Losses to Seattle Mtnrs, Fraser Valley (2), Thompson R, Mt. Royal

UBC –   5-2  Wins over Guelph, Memorial, Simon Fraser, Mt. Royal, Evergreen St  … Losses to Seattle Mtnrs, Ottawa

Victoria – 2-6     Wins Over Fraser Valley, Guelph … Losses to Carleton, Saskatchewan, Brock, McMaster, E. Oregon, Coll. of Idaho

Winnipeg – 4-3     Wins over … Lakehead, UNBC, MacEwan, Brandon …  Losses to Lakehead, Brock, Fraser Valley,

Explorer Division Teams-

Is this the year for the Wolves to howl ?

Is this the year for the Wolves to howl ?

Fraser Valley –  5-3  Wins over Seattle Mountaineers, Winnipeg, Trinity W (2), Manitoba … Losses to Victoria, Saskatchewan, Carleton

MacEwan – 1-4  Win over Manitoba  … Losses to Lethbridge, Winnipeg, Brandon, Queen’s

Mt. Royal – 2-4   Wins Over Alberta, Trinity W….Losses to Saskatchewan, Calgary (2), UBC,

Thompson Rivers – 4-0  Wins Over U. Great Falls, Trinity W, Simon Fraser, NW Univ. (WA)

UBC-Okanagan -2-2  Wins Over Trinity W,  Lethbridge …Losses to U. Great Falls, Lethbridge

UNBC – 1-3    Win Over Guelph … Losses to Memorial, Ottawa, Alberta