Retooled Blues ready to chase gold

After a productive offseason, the men’s basketball team is ready to take the next step towards provincial success

Luka Vasic // Contributor

Though the Capilano Blues Men’s Basketball team is coming off a very bumpy season, they are confident that they will not be making the same mistakes this year. “Our record didn’t indicate how well we played,” said Head Coach Cassidy Kannemeyer. “We had a couple close losses, fourth quarter execution is a big thing we need to work on this year, being able to close games.”

After finishing the regular season with a 10-8 record, the Blues managed to claw their way through the Pacific Western Athletic Association (PACWEST) provincial tournament. First closing out the Camosun Chargers in the quarter-finals, and then outlasting the Langara Falcons in the semis, the third-seeded Blues found themselves in a finals matchup against the first seeded Vancouver Island University Mariners. However, while the Blues were energetic and aggressive in the first half, the Mariners eventually prevailed in the second, with the Blues falling 94-77. “Our energy dipped, our defensive intensity wasn’t there, and we weren’t talking,” said team captain Niko Mottus, one of four returning players from last year. “That led to some defensive lapses.”

The rocky season and finals loss left Mottus, Kannemeyer and the rest of the team with some insight on what to improve for this season, however the biggest change proved to be personnel. Having lost a great deal of their bigs, including Greet Gill and Jesse Mushiana, the Blues have retooled their roster with length and speed, looking to play a more modern style of basketball. “We replaced those guys with guys that are taller and faster,” said Coach Kannemeyer, “Nathan Bromige is very fast for 6’7, Larry [Stupar] is 6’9, Kiante Knight and CJ Campbell are both sprinters.”

Bromige, Knight and Campbell, as well as Amir Hajisafar and Michael Kelly are all rookies this season, all straight out of high school, and Stupar is a former red shirt (practiced with the team but never played, meaning he didn’t lose a year of eligibility) now making his rookie debut. Regardless of their experience, they already have big expectations from their new coach. “All those guys already in game scenarios look totally fine, I expect they will be rotational players and contributors,” said Kannemeyer of his new core.
Another new addition to the team is fourth-year transfer Denver Sparks-Guest, who is expected to immediately make an impact. “Denver is a playmaker, he is super versatile offensively,” said Kannemeyer. “He’s a very skilled player, look for him to put up points and be a leader,” added Mottus.

Sparks-Guest and the rookies complete the team’s core that already features returning players like Brenden Bailey (who is returning from a season hiatus), Grady Huskisson and 2017 Rookie of the Year Wowie Untalan. Also returning to the team are Co-Captains Mottus and Hassan Phills, both of whom were key parts of their provincial run last season, with Phills being named a 2016-17 Pacwest Championship Tournament All-Star.

The team’s vets and new recruits have already spent a great deal of time together in an effort to build chemistry. “Niko and Hassan in the offseason were practicing with these guys, lots of one-on-one training with our assistant Mike Ironside,” said Kannemeyer, “I’m sure a lot of lessons were going on there because the rookies came in and it was a very seamless transition.” Sparks-Guest was also excited by the mentality of the team over the offseason. “We usually got together two to three times a week to play in the offseason, but everybody took it in their own hands to stay in shape and fine-tune their skills,” he said.

The offseason work and new talent have the new look Blues very confident going into the season. “Our goal would be to win provincials and go to nationals if we take care of everything we should be able to do that,” said Sparks-Guest. “With the revamped roster, I think we have a very good shot at taking home that gold and hopefully making some noise in nationals,” added Mottus, “Our roster this year is so deep, if you put any of our guys on 1-12, even our red shirts, they can play in the game and do it all.”

Kannemeyer realizes the team’s potential, but also knows how hard it is to succeed in this league, especially this year with their PACWEST opponents, the Douglas Royals, ranked fifth in the nation and two other PACWEST teams in the top fifteen.

According to the coach, rebounding and defense will be heavily emphasized this year. “Grit and grind, I like that, part of it is because Niko and Hassan are our captains,” said Kannemeyer, “Niko is a total lunch pail player, he gets exponentially better just from working harder than anybody, so when your captain is like that, it’s infectious, and we’re getting close to having 12 guys that are like that, they will sacrifice their individual statistics for team toughness, and hitting the floor.”

The Capilano Blues Men’s basketball team kick off their 2017-18 season at home Nov. 10 against the Quest University Kermodes.

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