At first glance, Jacob Doerksen and Trevor Klassen look like polar opposites.
During his high school days at Rick Hansen Secondary, Doerksen was the typical big man on campus, excelling at whatever sport he chose, whether it be on the hardwood with a basketball in his hands, scoring at will, or on the gridiron, running down the seam catching passes from his quarterback while the defence had no answer.
Doerksen was a jock.
Klassen was another story.
He has cerebral palsy, and has spent his life in a wheelchair.
Despite their differences, the pair turned out to have more in common than one might think.
They shared a homeroom at Hansen, and the friendship really blossomed during a fire drill one day at school.
“He was pretty scared and I was just there telling him it was going to be OK,” Doerksen said. “From there, we ate lunch together every day.”
The pair became fast friends and were soon inseparable.
One bond they shared was a love of sports.
“Trevor was a huge sports fan, so right away, there was that connection,” Doerksen said. “We had a lot of interests together.”
Basketball provided an opportunity for the pair to join forces: Doerksen as the star player and Klassen as the team manager.
After graduation, they went their separate ways. Klassen remained in Abbotsford, while Doerksen was off to the University of Victoria, where he led the Vikes to the national championship game in 2006, which they lost to Carleton.
“When he left, it was tough for me,” Klassen said.
After two seasons in the B.C. capital, Doerksen transferred to Trinity Western University in Langley.
Klassen became the Spartans’ team manager.
“It was really moving when Jake came over and said ‘I am going to Trinity, would you like to join me?’” he said.
The relationship is mutually beneficial. For Klassen, it offers acceptance and a feeling of inclusion. For Doerksen, it provides a sense of perspective.
“Trevor is not able-bodied, but the amount of heart he has, and the encouragement and positive attitude, it is huge for me,” Doerksen said. “He is always upbeat, always great to be around.
“Coming back home brought Trevor and I back together, and we are the closest we have ever been.”
Their friendship is one to behold, says Trinity Western coach Scott Allen.
“It is a pretty unique relationship,” he said. “I’m not sure who the big brother is.”
Allen said watching them together is inspiring and shows Doerksen’s leadership qualities.
“You have a guy like Jacob, who has such great athletic accolades … and all-around nice guy,” he said. “And who does he take as his best friend, he takes one of the weakest people.
“He just goes about doing what he thinks is the right thing.”
Doerksen respects the fact that Klassen will be blunt in his assessment of his friend’s game, and is most often correct in his observations.
“I think we feed off each other – I make Trevor laugh and then he comes back with something else,” Doerksen said.
Doerksen’s university basketball career came to an end last month, after he led the Spartans to a silver medal at the CIS national championships, the best-ever finish in the program’s history.
He’ll go down as one of the best basketball players Abbotsford has ever produced. His trophy case features the 2006 Canada West and CIS rookie of the year, and the 2009 Canada West and CIS player of the year awards.
He is also a five-time Canada West all-star and a two-time CIS first team all-star.
Doerksen leaves the Spartans as the second-leading scorer in program history, scoring 1,852 points in 88 games. He finished 17 points behind fellow Abbotsford native Adam Friesen (1,869), despite playing 11 fewer games.
n Doerksen is one of three Abbotsford products, along with Corina Reimer and Danny Horner, who wrapped up their fifth and final season of university basketball eligibility at Trinity Western this season.
Reimer, an MEI grad, leaves TWU as the most prolific rebounder and shot-blocker in the history of the women’s basketball program. She owns school records for most rebounds and blocked shots in a single game, in a season, and in a career.
Horner, a W.J. Mouat grad, began his post-secondary hoops career at the University of the Fraser Valley, and helped the Cascades to a BCCAA title in 2006. He’s served as the Spartans’ backup point guard the past three seasons, and shot a scorching .463 from three-point range in 2010-11.