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)
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.
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)
“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 ?
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)
- 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.