Basketball is officially back at the University of the Fraser Valley starting today (Friday).
The men’s and women’s Cascades basketball teams host the Thompson Rivers University Wolfpack at the Envision Financial Athletic Centre, with games on Friday (women at 6 p.m., men at 8 p.m.) and Saturday (5 p.m. and 7 p.m.).
As part of the opening-weekend festivities, the EFAC mezzanine will host a Cascades Pub event beginning at 3 p.m. on Friday, and a food truck from Kal Side Grill will also be on site. The Cascades Pub will be a regular presence on Friday home game nights throughout basketball and volleyball season.
Friday is also Abbotsford Basketball Association night, and school-aged youth wearing their basketball jerseys will receive free admission to the games.
On the court, the men’s team is looking to return to the playoffs after failing to qualify for the postseason for the first time in years last season.
The Cascades didn’t have a single fifth-year on the squad last season, so the entire group was eligible to return, seasoned with one more year of experience.
One of the key additions to this year’s team is guard Sukhjot Bains, who signed with the Cascades after playing in the U.S. – most recently, suiting up for the NCAA Div. I Green Bay-Wisconsin Phoenix in 2017-18.
Bains starred for Surrey’s Tamanawis Secondary during his high school career, and in 2013-14 he was voted the top Grade 12 high school basketball player in the province in a poll conducted by The Province newspaper.
“He brings a lot to the game,” said head coach Adam Friesen of Bains. “He’s a primary scorer, and he’s going to be asked to guard a lot of the other teams’ best players, and take on a lot of responsibility at both ends.”
Friesen said he expects improvement on last season’s 5-15 record.
“The expectation is for us to have a better season than last year,” he said. “We want to play like a more experienced team. We want to value every possession and value the small details of the game more, understanding how much impact they have on the outcome.”
Leading the returnees are rising fifth-year forwards Mark Johnson and Andrew Morris.
UFV’s top two scorers last season averaged 13.8 and 12.6 points per game, respectively; Johnson also led the squad in rebounding (7.7 boards per game), and his 45.6 per cent shooting from beyond the arc ranked second in Canada West.
The Cascades will lean heavily on 6’ 10” third-year forward Sukhman Sandhu, who led Canada West in blocked shots (2.1 per game).
Fellow third-year Daniel Adediran (8.9 points, 7.4 rebounds last season) will also be a key presence in the front-court rotation, along with fourth-year Matt Cooley.
The point guard position will be manned by a trio of second-year Cascades: Parm Bains, Vick Toor and Kenan Hadzovic.
Meanwhile, it’s a youthful feel in 2018-19 for the Cascades women’s team.
Gone are fifth-year standouts Shayna Litman and Sara Simovic, but back to carry the torch is fourth-year Taylor Claggett, who is coming off a solid year averaging 13.8 points and 9.7 rebounds.
“Taylor has evolved into one of the premier forwards in Canada West,” said women’s head coach Al Tuchscherer. “She’s had an opportunity right from her first year to play a lot of minutes and be a key contributor. She’s a real solid veteran going into her fourth year for us. She has a real knack for getting to the line, she rebounds the ball, and her defence has improved tremendously over the years.”
The Cascades also boast a deep group of third-year players, featuring guards Kate Head, Amanda Thompson and Victoria Jacobse, and forwards Jessica Zawada and Veronica Kobes.
Head, Thompson, Jacobse and Zawada all averaged between three and six points per game last season, and all will step into more prominent offensive roles.
The club also welcome five newcomers. Sophomore transfer Elissa Vreugdenhil out of Whatcom Community College and rookies Abby Zawada (Jessica’s sister), Natalie Rathler, Madison Draayers and Madeline Beerwald all have the potential to grow into key rotation pieces.
The team is coming off a 2017-18 campaign that saw them finish 8-12 and fall in round one of the playoffs.
For more on both teams, visit ufvcascades.ca.