Barnaby Craddock is quick to point out that preseason games don't count in the standings, but at the same time, the University of the Fraser Valley men's basketball coach can't help but be pleased with what he's seen from his squad in exhibition play.
Last weekend, the Cascades were the only team to go a perfect 3-0 at the UBC Invitational Tournament, beating a trio of Eastern foes – Memorial University (100-80), Wilfred Laurier (80-70) and Concordia (95-86).
The wins over Laurier and Concordia, in particular, where high-quality – Craddock feels that both teams could be ranked in the top 10 nationally to start the season, and Laurier notched a weekend win over perennial Canada West powerhouse UBC.
From Craddock's perspective, those performances are a sign his team is coming of age.
"Historically, perhaps, we might not have come out of those games with W's because we might have played immaturely," he pointed out. "Guys thrived in pressure situations, and I think it should give us confidence."
The UFV men will try to build on their hot start this weekend, as they host their inaugural preseason event – the Honda Way Tournament, which runs Friday and Saturday at the Envision Athletic Centre.
The tourney will feature the Guelph Gryphons, a solid Ontario University Athletics program; the Thompson Rivers WolfPack, one of the Cascades' Canada West rivals; and the Northwest University Eagles, an NAIA squad from Kirkland, Wash.
Friday's action sees TRU take on Northwest (6 p.m.), and UFV against Guelph (8 p.m.). On Saturday, Guelph faces TRU (5 p.m.), followed by UFV vs. Northwest (7 p.m.).
Craddock said hosting a top-notch preseason tournament is a "fantastic" opportunity for his program.
"We're hoping it's the first of many," said Craddock, whose team opens Canada West league play Nov. 4-5 in Kamloops against TRU. "We've got terrific sponsorship from Honda Way, and it's going to be good basketball. We want to show the Fraser Valley that elite-level basketball is alive and well here."
The 2011-12 edition of the Cascades boasts more size and depth than in seasons past, with incoming big men Mike James and Luke Braund joining forces with veteran post players Jasper Moedt and Kyle Grewal, who are returning after missing last season with ACL tears. Those players compliment the Cascades' perimetre-oriented core which features Joel Friesen and Sam Freeman.
Third-year guard Friesen appears primed for a breakout season, and he was outstanding at the UBC tourney, racking up 25 points on back-to-back nights against Laurier and Concordia. Freeman's 22-point outing against Concordia included five three-pointers, while Grewal made strides in his comeback from injury by posting a double-double (18 points, 11 rebounds) in the win over Laurier.