The Fraser Valley Bandits held a free agent camp at UFV on Saturday. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)

Fraser Valley Bandits ink pair of players

Abbotsford’s Friesen, seven-footer Bachynski sign with local basketball team

The Fraser Valley Bandits have officially signed the first two members of the new basketball team’s inaugural roster.

The Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) club announced the signing of first overall draft pick Joel Friesen on Friday.

Friesen, a six-foot-five guard from Abbotsford, is a Yale Secondary grad and has played the past few seasons in the National Basketball League Canada (NBLC).

Friesen officially turned pro in 2015, signing with the Niagara River Lions of the National Basketball League of Canada.

He was later dealt to the Halifax Hurricanes and won a NBLC championship in 2016 before joining the NBLC’s London Lightning, which won rings in 2017 and 2018. This past season he averaged 12.4 points per game for the Kitchener-Waterloo Titans.

Friesen’s roots run deep in the Fraser Valley. He was a key cog in the Yale Lions’ 3A senior boys title-winning team in 2008 and was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

Friesen then went on to become a Canada West All-Rookie Team selection as part of the then-UCFV Cascades.

Friesen is credited with helping carry the Cascades to the team’s first-ever Canada West final four berth in 2012 after hitting an iconic buzzer beater against the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns.

Friesen concluded his U Sports career at the University of Alberta, where he played as an important member of the Golden Bears team that won a Canada West championship in 2013.

“The opportunity to come home and be a part of the Fraser Valley Bandits is nothing short of a blessing. I have many fond memories of the Fraser Valley, and Abbotsford will always be home,” he said.

“I’ve always tried to set an example for the next generation to follow, and I believe that signing with the Bandits is a great opportunity to engage with the community and inspire youth to pursue their dreams.

“Basketball is a powerful platform, and I intend to use it to champion a lasting legacy in British Columbia and beyond.”

The Bandits then announced the signing of Dallin Bachynski on Sunday.

Bachynski, a seven-foot centre from Calgary, averaged 10.9 points per game this past season for BC Beroe of the National Basketball League (NBL), Bulgaria’s top professional basketball league.

Bachynski has a history of basketball success dating back to his days as a top prospect in Calgary’s high school basketball community.

Bachynski won city titles with both Centennial High School and Sir Winston Churchill High School before playing four years of NCAA Division I basketball – one year at Southern Utah University (2009-10), and three years at the University of Utah (2012-15).

As a member of the Utah Utes, Bachynski earned a reputation as a locker room leader who inspired teammates with his physical play – diving for loose balls, setting screens, and collecting offensive and defensive rebounds.

Bachynski averaged 4.6 points per game, 3.3 rebounds per game, while also shooting 53.9 per cent from field-goal range over the course of his four-year collegiate basketball career. In 2015, Bachynski capped off his NCAA career with a March Madness run as a key contributor for the Utah Utes men’s basketball team.

Since turning pro, Bachynski has broadened his offensive arsenal, and has become a three-point threat.

His professional resume spans the globe, with stops in some of the world’s top international pro leagues, including time spent at the NBA Summer League with the Toronto Raptors in Las Vegas in 2015 and the Grand Rapids Drive of the NBA G League in 2015-16, before travelling overseas to play for pro clubs in Argentina, Poland, Japan and England.

In other Bandits news, the team’s training camp opened on Monday at UFV and runs until the season opener.

Opening night sees the Bandits welcome the Guelph Nighthawks to the Abbotsford Centre on May 9 starting at 7 p.m.

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