While the UFV Cascades and CBC Bearcats may not play in the same league, the two programs can both dish up some entertaining basketball action for the average Abbotsford fan. This season all four teams are sporting notable roster revisions, serious firepower, and big potential.
The UFV Cascades men’s basketball team finished fourth in the Canada West Final Four last year with a 19-7 overall record (including a sixteen game winning streak). This season they’re bigger (courtesy of California product Nate Brown), faster (courtesy of Seattle product Dominique Brooks), and deeper off the bench than they’ve been in years.
The Cascades are returning fifth-year forward Jasper Moedt, fourth-year guard Kevon Parchment, third-year shooter-turned-point-guard Manny Dhulay, as well as small forward Kadeem Willis, who shot a staggering 17-17 during UFV’s first game in Ontario. Several other recruits fill out UFV’s ranks, including former Victoria Vike Vijay Dhillon, and former Bearcat Mackenzie Thompson.
“I think our added strengths are going to be posts, more size up front and more depth,” said Cascades coach Adam Friesen. “I think we’re going to have a bigger presence, a more physical presence.”
The UFV Cascades women’s basketball team has spent the last six weeks in an exhibition schedule so challenging that in the words of coach Al Tuchscherer, “either we were going to be completely demoralized, or we were going to be better.” It’s easy to conclude from the team’s performance last weekend against the NCAA Div. 1 Lewis-Clark State College Warriors (culminating in two narrow five-point losses) that the Cascades have chosen to improve, and improve fast.
While the CIS bronze-medal-winning Cascades (with a 22-7 record last year) graduated five players and lost a few more over the break, they still retain the services of fifth-year seniors Sarah Wierks and Celeste Dyck, as well as the third-year forward duo of Shayna Litman and Kaitlyn Brink
“They’re a real enjoyable group to coach,” said Tuchscherer. “I think we’re a lot better than our [preseason] record shows … We’re resilient and we’re positive and we’re excited to get going.”
The Bearcats men don’t want to spend too long staring into the past, which includes a 3-18 season record for 2013-2014. This year’s incarnation of the ‘Cats has all sorts of offensive firepower courtesy of Abby products Sasha Otanga (Yale) and Jamie Konrad (Abby Senior), as well as Brooklyn, N.Y. native Elijah Calhoun and Si Woo Youn (S. Korea). Key CBC returnees include fifth-year Hudson Naylor (Kamloops, BC), and second years Seth Sorensen (Surrey, BC) and Addison King (Bellingham, WA).
“I think offensively is where we tried to make our mark last year,” said second year bench boss Matt Guynup. “We were not a very good defensive squad. We would just try to play good enough defense that our offence would win the game for us, and that’s only going to take you so far.” This year’s squad, according to Guynup, has shown serious improvements at both ends of the floor, while becoming more versatile in the process.
The Bearcats women have made an unusual roster addition in the form of last year’s head coach, Tamara Larson who, with both past NCAA and CIS experience, has opted to help the squad by moving from the end of the bench to running the floor. Under interim bench boss Angela Booy, the Bearcat women hope to make a bid to be a PACWEST playoff team after a lengthy drought.
After a frustrating 1-20 season in 2013-14, CBC is hoping that adding only one rookie (Harvina Kaler MEI) to a group of 12 returning players, including third year Deanna Esau, the 6’1” Skye Sealey, and Katie Stalin, will be a formula for success.
The Cascades play their first home games against the UNBC Timberwolves on Nov. 14 and 15 at the Envision Athletic Centre. The Bearcats play Friday, Nov. 7 against Quest University at Columbia Place (women at 6 p.m., men at 8).