UFV welcomes the University of Saskatchewan Huskies to kick off the season, with the women hitting the floor at the Envision Athletic Centre at 6 p.m., and the men getting underway at 8 p.m.
With last season’s top scorer Kevon Parchment wrapping up his eligibility in the spring, fifth-year guards Manny Dulay and Vijay Dhillon step to the forefront. Dhillon made 61 three-pointers last season to lead, while Dulay was eighth with 42. Both players shot north of 40 per cent from beyond the arc, and both will shoulder significant playmaking responsibilities in addition to stretching defences with their shooting.
“We expect them to be leaders, really run the offence and provide more of the playmaking aspect to the game than they have in years past,” Cascades head coach Adam Friesen said of the pair. “They allow us to space the floor well, and their ability to shoot the three makes our posts’ lives easier and allows some of our wings who prefer to penetrate to have larger lanes to slash into.”
On the wing, veteran additions Andrew Morris, Denver Sparks-Guest and Anthony Gilchrist infuse the Cascades with size, skill and experience.
Up front, UFV will rely on returnees Nav Bains, Matt Cooley and Mark Johnson, and newcomer Sukhman Sandhu. Bains and Cooley were key performers last season, while Johnson is back in the lineup after missing almost all of last year recuperating from knee surgery. Sandhu returns home after redshirting at a school in California last year.
Yale Secondary grad Riley Braich and Surrey’s Daniel Adediran will also be looking to contribute.
“We’re a deeper team, and as far as how the group fits together, we’re still figuring that out,” Friesen said. “I think we’ll be a competitive team. Canada West has a lot of balance to it this year, so if our veterans take the next step and our new players adjust quickly, we expect to have some success.”
“It’s exciting to get the regular season started, guys are feeling optimistic about the season, and looking forward to seeing what we can do when we’re fully healthy,” he added.
The Cascades women’s basketball team has a new-look roster, but among the constants is one of the best players in the nation: fifth-year guard/forward Kayli Sartori.
Sartori is coming off an incredible 2015-16 season which saw her win the Canada West scoring title (18.4 points per game) while finishing no lower than 11th in the conference in rebounding, assists, blocks and steals. For her efforts, she was named a Canada West first team all-star and a CIS second team All-Canadian.
“I know Kayli’s hungry to have a good season,” Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer said. “She wants to leave her mark on this team – she knows we have a bunch of young kids and she wants to positively impact them and set them up for future success.”
The Cascades have a core of veterans alongside Sartori, but the 2016-17 edition of the squad is laden with youth. Six players – half the roster – are in their first year of eligibility, with local recruits including Mouat grads Victoria Jacobse and Amanda Thompson, along with Richmond forward Jessica Zawada working their way into the rotation.
Providing additional veteran seasoning to that group will be returnees Taylor Claggett, Shayna Litman and Sydney Williams, and newcomer Sara Simovic.
Claggett, a 5’11” forward from Mission is coming off a tremendous rookie season – she averaged 11.7 points per game and finished seventh in the conference with 8.7 rebounds per game en route to Canada West all-rookie honours.
Litman, a fourth-year power forward from Coquitlam sat out last season after knee surgery, but has averaged 15.2 points per game in the preseason.
Williams is a gritty defender and a high-volume three-point shooter who was fifth in Canada West with 47 threes made last season.
Simovic, meanwhile, joins the Cascades for her fourth year of eligibility after previous stints with the Lethbridge Pronghorns and the VIU Mariners. The combo guard from Nanaimo was a Canada West all-rookie teamer in 2013-14 with Lethbridge, and can challenge defences with her shooting and penetrating.
To get his younger players acclimatized to the level of competition they’ll be facing this year, Tuchscherer put together a tough preseason schedule. The Cascades faced a gauntlet of powerhouse programs, including three of the top 10 in the initial U Sports national rankings of the season (No. 1 Regina, No. 2 Carleton and No. 7 Ryerson).
“It’s a season where there’s a lot of unknowns and I don’t think the exhibition season answered a lot of those questions,” Tuchscherer said. “I’d like to think we’re a team that can be tough to play against every night, and if you don’t come prepared to play us, you’re not going to be successful.”
The teams also host the Huskies on Saturday at 5 and 7 p.m., before battling rivals the Trinity Wester University Spartans for a home and home series on Nov. 11 and 12.