Blues look to rebound in time for stretch run

After a slow start last fall, CapU Men’s Basketball looks to steady ship this spring

Luka Vasic // Contributor
Photo c/o Vancouver Sports Pictures

The Capilano University Blues men’s basketball team did not start the 2017/18 season the way they had planned. Losing three of their first four games to start the year, the team’s youth started to become evident. This is natural for a group looking to integrate five rookies, a transfer student and the returning squad into the rotation. “The first couple games we were still figuring out how to play with each other,” said team captain Niko Mottus of their three losses. “We battled in all three of those games, we missed pivotal shots and we were never front runners,” added head coach Cassidy Kannemeyer.

In their losses to Langara, Camosun and Vancouver Island University (VIU), the Blues dug themselves into holes they could not come back from, losing by an average of 14 points. Despite the slow start, the team regrouped and finished 2017 on a two-game win streak. The Blues carried over that momentum into the new year, starting January by sweeping CBC in back to back games. They now find themselves sitting on a 5-5 record, good for third place in the Pacific Western Athletic Association (PACWEST) with 8 games still left to play in the regular season.

Much of the Blues recent success can be credited to the play of their rookies, “Larry [Stupar] and Nathan [Bromige] have fit in well because defensively they’re game changers,” said Kannemeyer. “Michael Kelly is a smart player, he knows that when he comes in the game what he’s supposed to do and he’s bringing very consistent minutes.” Throughout the season, Kannemeyer has stressed that the team needs to allow the game to come to them and not force things, which has helped the rookies find their place in the rotation.

While the team’s rookies have slowly been finding their spot on the team, the Blues have found more consistency in fourth-year transfer forward Denver Sparks-Guest. “I think him and I always knew what kind of player he can be,” said Kannemeyer, who coached Sparks-Guest on a U-16 provincial team. “He’s become much more trusting of his teammates, he’s worked way harder on the defensive end, and because of that I
can ride him in almost every situation.”

Kannemeyer’s confidence in Sparks-Guest has allowed him to shine as one of the Blues most potent offensive weapons. He leads the team in scoring with 20.9 per game, rebounds with 8.2 per game, minutes with 29.8 per game, and has given his coach the opportunity to “tinker the things we can do in our offence to best suit him, so he can make plays for others and for himself,” according to Kannemeyer.

However, the most important piece of the Blues recent success has been their unselfishness, with eight players averaging more than 1.5 assists per game. “I want the ball to move, I want everybody to touch it,” said Kannemeyer. “When we’re playing like that we’re so deadly,” added Mottus, who along with Wowie Untalan lead the team with 2.7 and 3 assists per game respectively.

Despite the recent string of success, Motus and Kannemeyer realize what the team needs to do to become provincials. “We need to get tougher, and we need to get more resilient when the bullets are flying,” said Kannemeyer. The team’s mental toughness was tested this past weekend against the first-place VIU Mariners, who remain undefeated. After losing to the Mariners in the provincial gold medal game last spring, Mottus and the Blues couldn’t help but feel fired up for the matchup. “They’re the team you want to beat,” said Mottus. “It’s definitely a personal game, and I know we’re all ready to play them on our home court,” he said before the game.

While the Blues dropped both contests, they showed tremendous resilience on Saturday, playing a hard-fought battle after blowing a one point lead at half on Friday and losing by 23.

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