For an exhibition game in the dog days of summer, Saturday evening’s tilt between the UFV Cascades and the Cal State Northridge Matadors had some rather weighty themes at play.
It was about fathers and sons, and big-time basketball debuts.
In the stands on the north side of UFV’s Envision Athletic Centre sat Larry Drew, head coach of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. He’d hopped on a cross-continent flight to watch his son Landon, a freshman point guard with the Matadors, play the first games of his college career as part of a four-game tour of B.C.
Seated in the south-side bleachers was longtime Yale Secondary senior boys bench boss Al Friesen, watching his son Adam in his first game as head coach of the UFV men’s program.
In the aftermath of the Matadors’ 96-56 win over the Cascades, both dads were heartened by what they’d seen.
Facing an NCAA Div. I opponent while trying to assimilate seven new players with minimal practice preparation was, predictably, not a recipe for success for the Cascades. The Matadors took full advantage in the first half – a bushel of UFV turnovers ignited their fast break, and the visitors built a 52-20 lead.
But the Cascades, who were missing star power forward Kyle Grewal (groin injury), played far better after the break, and managed a moral victory by winning the third quarter (23-22).
Cal State Northridge, though, decisively completed an undefeated run through B.C., which also featured wins over the Vancouver Island University Mariners, the Quest Kermodes and the UVic Vikes.
Friesen tried to downplay his CIS head coaching debut as a non-event, “nothing more than just a regular game.”
His father had a different sense of things.
“You could tell everybody was nervous (in the first half), and he was nervous,” Al Friesen said, noting that Adam grew more animated on the sideline as the game wore on.
“Second half, he coached differently. It’s your first time, and you feel like you have to look the part. Slowly, you stop worrying what you look like and just do what God gave you the ability to do.
“We’ve spent a lifetime doing this. He loves the game, he studies it . . . nobody’s going to work harder.”
For the Matadors, five players scored in double figures, led by Josh Greene (17) and Stephen Maxwell (14).
Landon Drew, meanwhile, was effective and efficient with his dad looking on, submitting a flawless shooting line (2-for-2 from the floor, 4-for-4 from the foul line) en route to eight points and three assists in 20 minutes. He’s no stranger to Abbotsford – his Los Angeles high school team, the Fairfax Lions, attended the Abbotsford Collegiate Snowball Classic in 2011, and he earned MVP honours after leading his team to the tourney title.
“I didn’t think I was going to get to see him play this year, but when I heard about this trip, I really wanted to make a point of being here,” said Larry Drew, whose two-day whirlwind trip to B.C. finished with an 8 a.m. flight back to Atlanta on Sunday morning. “I’m excited to see him in a college uniform.
“He’s kind of a throwback – a pass-first point guard. Coming into this program, I knew how Coach (Bobby) Braswell wanted to use him, and Landon has really made the adjustments. Every time I’ve watched him, he’s looked more and more comfortable. That’s a good sign.”
There were also some good signs for the Cascades, though the lopsided score indicates there’s still a lot of work to be done before the Canada West campaign opens in November.
Kevon Parchment, a 6’3″ guard from Toronto via Alberta’s Lakeland College, showcased his explosive athletic ability and tied sophomore returnee Jordan Blackman for team-high scoring honours with 11 points. Another newcomer, 6’5″ centre Andy Khaira of Surrey, served notice he’ll be a key contributor with eight points and 10 rebounds.
Nathan Kendall was perhaps the most impressive Cascade – coming off a redshirt season, the Yale Secondary product exhibited an upgraded skill set and newfound confidence. He registered nine points, three rebounds and three assists in 16 minutes off the bench.
“We have so many players who are not only new to our program, they’re new to the CIS,” Adam Friesen summarized. “You have to learn how hard you have to play, how competitive you have to be, how physical you have to be. I think that caught us off-guard at the beginning. We dug ourselves a hole, but in the second half, we played a lot better. That was really encouraging.
“I saw the glimpse of individual talent that we have. Blending it together is going to take some time, of course, but the individual talent is there. Once we get a little more time playing together and maybe more organized offensively, I think we’re going to be a really tough team.”
SOCCER MEN SHOW PROMISE
The UFV men’s soccer team won two of three weekend games south of the border, running their preseason record to 4-1-1.
On Friday, the Cascades fell 2-1 to the Puget Sound University Loggers, an NCAA Div. III program. Connor MacMillan scored the UFV goal, while the Loggers got the game-winner in the final minute of regulation.
On Saturday, the Cascades crushed another NCAA Div. III squad, the Willamette (Oregon) University Beavers, 5-1 behind goals from MacMillan, Koby Byrne, Justin Sekhon, Dalibor Plavsic and Ryan Liddiard.
The UFV men wrapped up the jaunt with a 1-0 win in Oregon over the Pacific University Boxers, an NCAA Div. II team, on Sunday. Plavsic, off a feed from Liddiard, notched the lone goal.
“A very worthwhile trip with some great performances and a chance for rookies to adapt to this level of play,” UFV coach Alan Errington said.