UFV men’s basketball coach Adam Friesen has never in the history of his CIS coaching career had a team finish lower than fourth in the Canada West. He’s never lost a three-game playoff series, his all-time conference win-loss ratio stands at .673 (35-17), and he’s never started a season with more than ten players on the roster,
More importantly, Friesen’s Cascades are undefeated so far this season, and haven’t lost a regular season game since 2013. No other team in the Canada West can boast a record close to what the Cascades have accomplished, and the rest of the CIS has started taking notice. When the first national coaches’ poll came out in October, UFV was nowhere to be seen, but now, eight wins later, the Cascades are ranked ninth in Canada.
About time too. The squad is considerably deeper than it was last season when UFV finished tied for eighth nationally, and currently includes eight players averaging more than 10 points a game. Key additions at forward and guard have rounded out the Cascades’ offence, providing the team with a far more balanced attack than previous incarnations.
“All five guys on the floor can score,” said Friesen. “I think that’s the biggest similarity from that team [the 2012 Cascades] is that everyone on the court needs to be guarded.”
The comparison to the 2012 team is the obvious one, considering that squad, led by Kyle Grewal, Joel Friesen and Sam Freeman, finished fourth in the nation under previous UFV coach Barnaby Craddock. What few now remember is that the legendary 2012 team wouldn’t even have made the Canada West Final Four if not for a desperation buzzer-beater from Joel Friesen in the quarterfinals. The difference between success and failure in the competitive Canada West is often a single gamble
Adam Friesen’s biggest gamble so far this season may have been switching Manny Dulay from his traditional role as shooting guard to point guard, and using American-transfer Dominique Brooks (a natural point) in a more forward role. While initially hesitant, Dulay has flourished in his new position. He’s learned to read the floor, runs a sweet pick-n-roll through Cascade forward Nate Brown, and is currently ranked eighth among assist-leaders in the Canada West (4.1 per game).
“Sometimes you just have to trust coach,” said Dulay, who played point guard in high school but hadn’t expected to return to the position at the CIS level.
Brooks has also flourished in his new role, shooting 47.6 per cent on the year from beyond the arc and averaging 13.2 points per game.
The Cascades are putting up some impressive team stats as well, although the ones Friesen is most concerned about are the points they allow and the assists they accrue per game. UFV is currently the best defensive team in the Canada West, allowing an average of only 69.4 points against per game. They also average the second-highest number of assists with 16.8 per game.
Friesen’s biggest challenge this year may be that too many of his players can produce, and many have had to scale back their shots and minutes to fit into a faster, deeper squad.
“Some of the guys on our team could be scoring more points than they currently are, but that wouldn’t make us the best team we possible could be,” he says.
Of course, thanks to the two-division schedule the Cascades won’t play many of the traditional Canada West powerhouses until the playoffs, giving those schools a little more time to prepare for Friesen, Dulay, Brooks and the rest of the team.