CIS preview – UBC Thunderbirds

Tommy Nixon leads a talented mix of players for UBC in 2013-14. - Photo courtesy: UBC Athletics

Tommy Nixon leads a talented mix of players for UBC in 2013-14. – Photo courtesy: UBC Athletics

Canada West Playoffs: Gold medallists

CIS Final 8: 7th place

Key returning players: Tommy Nixon, Brylle Kamen, Jordan Jensen-Whyte, David Wagner, Isaiah Solomon, Conor Morgan, Michael Steele, Andrew McGuiness

Additions:

  • Tonner Jackson (5th year – Trinity Western University)
  • Harpreet Randhawa (4th year – Douglas College)
  • Kedar Wright (St. Edmund Campion – Brampton, ON)
  • Luka Zaharijevic (Kitsilano)

Departures: Doug Plumb, O’Brien Wallace, Jared Casey

Two years ago, UBC’s starting lineup looked like a B.C. all-star team. It consisted of four fifth-year players – Nathan Yu, Balraj Bains, Graham Bath and Kamar Burke, while fourth-year sharpshooter Doug Plumb rounded out the rotation.

But that squad went 13-4 in the regular season and drew a supremely talented Alberta Golden Bears team in the first round of the Canada West playoffs (Alberta went on to lose in the CIS championship game against Carleton), ultimately underperforming, given the talent they had on paper.

Last year, guided by an inspired Plumb and a slew of younger players chomping at the bit to prove their worth, the Birds turned in an impressive 18-4 regular season record, but fell short in the CIS Final 8 – succumbing to Acadia in the opening round, and then to their provincial rival UVic Vikes in consolation.

Plumb exhausted his five years and is currently making a splash on the European pro-circuit in Hungary, and now once again a talented young cast of T-Birds eagerly plans to prove what head coach Kevin Hanson had in mind while crafting his recruits over the past few years.

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Canada West Playoff Results and Predictions

While most basketball fans will be dropping their jaws during the N.B.A. slam-dunk contest tonight, there will be four Canada West quarterfinal games going down across Western Canada, with eight teams vying for just two (possibly three) berths to the CIS Final 8 in March.

Although I will be one of the jaw-droppers tuning in to the N.B.A.’s all-star festivities, I’ll have these four contests playing simultaneously thanks to the accommodating folks at CanadaWest.TV

Here’s a recap or what’s happened already, and predictions for what’s to come:

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UBC rises at right time, defeats Victoria Vikes – Kamar Burke registers monster game

There may not be a better starting lineup in the country.

Credit an early start by Doug Plumb, a late explosion by Nathan Yu, and a dominant effort from Kamar Burke for the UBC Thunderbirds 68-52 win over the University of Victoria Vikes Friday, Feb. 10 at UBC’s War Memorial Gym.

The trio of seniors have at times been able to pull back a little due to the great playing of rookie Malcolm Williams and second-year forward Tommy Nixon, but as the calendar nears March and each game becomes more important than the last, it’s the seniors who are pacing the Thunderbirds.

“That’s just a great team. That’s just what a great team does,” said Yu after the game.

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More Important Than Numbers – UBC Head Coach Kevin Hanson Reflects on 300th Win

The UBC bench erupts after a massive slam by Kamar Burke. The Thunderbirds eased to a 77-43 win, head coach Kevin Hanson’s 300th. – Brian Jones Photo

Disregard the score, the potential playoff implications, or the fact that it extended a current win streak to seven games, Friday night ‘s result was sweeter than most.

With a 77-43 win over the UBCO Heat, Kevin Hanson recorded his 300th win as head coach of the UBC Thunderbirds, adding another accolade to a 12-year career that few have matched.

“To be quite honest I really just reflect on some of the great coaches we’ve got,” said Hanson. “And like I said, the legacy I want to leave at UBC is more about how many players we’ve been able to move on and play professionally, and more importantly, give back to basketball and start coaching.”

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Guest coach makes most of UBC basketball experience

Taking a look at the coaches sitting on the UBC’s bench during their 78-48 win over UBCO last Saturday, you’d see a variety of qualified men with experience stemming from the highest levels of basketball.

At the head of the bench, which like every gym nowadays is actually just a line of cushy folding chairs, sits Kevin Hanson, who had just won his 300th game as UBC’s head coach the night before.

Beside him sits Vern Knopp, a former All-Canadian at Douglas College in the early 90′s, in his 12th year as an assistant for the Thunderbirds.

Next to Knopp is Casey Archibald, a former All-Canadian for UBC, in his first year as a full-time assistant. After Archibald, it’s Jamie Oei and Dahman Boudraa, both of whom led Douglas College to a CCAA title in 2008, in their second and fourth years respectively.

But after those five regulars sat a man who had never been on a university basketball coaching  staff, let alone a college coaching staff, and not even a varsity high-school bench.

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UBC Thunderbirds dominate UBC-O to extend win streak to eight

UBC’s Kamar Burke finishes an up and under baseline dunk with authority during the Thunderbird’s 77-43 win over UBC-O on Friday, Jan. 27. – Brian Jones Photo

When the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus made the jump from the CCAA basketball ranks to the CIS, it wasn’t expected of them to come out dominating their established Canada West conference opponents.

So when the aptly named “Heat” travelled down from frigid Kelowna weather to Vancouver for a pair of regular-season matchups against the original University of British Columbia, the Thunderbirds, it was a stretch to assume that a passionate rivalry would ensue.

When a team gets pummeled by 34 points one night then 30 the next, it’s safe to say that a rivalry wasn’t sparked, but that the Heat were simply dealt consecutive beat downs that illustrate the level they need to reach.

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Every second counts: A play-by-play breakdown of UBC’s overtime victory against Alberta

Fifth-year UBC point guard Nathan Yu drives in for a layup against Alberta on Friday, January 6. - Brian Jones Photo

In late November, when the UBC Thunderbirds dropped two Canada West regular season matches to Lethbridge and Calgary, I honestly thought that it was going to be a rebuilding year for last year’s national bronze medalists.

Although they had opened up the 2011-12 campaign with four straight wins against Canada West competition, I came to the conclusion that after that brutal Alberta road trip, that this wouldn’t be the year where the T-Birds claimed that elusive gold at nationals.

After the two-game skid, UBC had a month lay-off and then headed down to Santa Barbara where they split a pair of games against UC Merced and Trinity International University.

Then 2012 happened.

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