As they tip off their conference schedule this weekend, the University of the Fraser Valley men’s basketball team’s long-term goals include a fifth straight trip to the Canada West Final Four – and a return to the CIS national championship for the first time since 2012.
The Cascades no longer have the services of standout post players Jasper Moedt and Kadeem Willis, both of whom wrapped up their five years of eligibility last spring, but head coach Adam Friesen has a nice mix of seasoned veterans and promising newcomers at his disposal in 2015-16.
“We’re a talented group,” said Friesen, whose team finished first in the Pioneer Division last season with a 17-3 record and went on to earn the Canada West bronze medal. “We have some guys being put in different roles, but I think we’re a deeper team than last year, and also more versatile.
“I think our goals are the same as last year. It’s yet to be determined whether we can be better than last year’s team, but the opportunity is there in front of us to go after it.”
Cascades Tip-Off Weekend presented by Panago takes over the Envision Athletic Centre this Friday and Saturday. UFV’s first regular season basketball games of the campaign run Friday (women 6 p.m., men 8 p.m.) and Saturday (women 5 p.m., men 7 p.m.) vs. the UBC Okanagan Heat. Friday’s games will include high school girls and boys three-point shooting contests at halftime, presented by the Abbotsford Police City Basketball Tournament. School-aged athletes wearing their team jerseys will receive free admission to all weekend games.
Guards Kevon Parchment and Manny Dulay and power forward Nate Brown comprise a solid veteran core for Friesen to build around. Parchment, a fifth-year shooting guard from Scarborough, Ont., is a tenacious two-way force and was a Canada West third team all-star in 2014-15. He paced the Cascades in scoring last season with 14.7 points per game, and his 6.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists both ranked second on the squad.
Dulay, a fourth-year point guard from Surrey, B.C., is one of the conference’s most prolific and efficient three-point shooters – he swished 38.9 per cent of his attempts from downtown in 2014-15, and averaged 11.3 points and a team-high 3.9 assists per game. Brown, an imposing 6’6” post presence from Fresno, Calif., posted 11.3 points and 5.7 boards per game last season, his first with the Cascades.
“They’re stepping up to the plate,” Friesen said of Parchment, Dulay and Brown. “They’ve done a great job with their work ethic and with setting a tone with how things are going to be, whether at practice or working on their own time.”
Vijay Dhillon, a fourth-year combo guard from Richmond, B.C., returns to take on a bigger role after averaging 8.8 points and 2.5 assists last year, and he’s had an outstanding preseason. Navjot Bains, a 6’6” centre from Delta, B.C., provides crucial rebounding and interior defence in the middle.
Among the newcomers, versatile 6’6” forward Mark Johnson has performed well during non-conference play this fall. He hails from Palm Springs, Calif. and joined the Cascades from the U.S. junior college ranks. Other key rotation players include transfers Matt Cooley (6’8” forward, formerly of the Kwantlen Eagles) and Brandon Burke (6’4” guard, Algonquin College), and redshirt freshman guard Marcus Morgan.
Friesen said that developing consistency over the course of the regular season will be crucial for his squad if they hope to make another deep playoff run.
“We need to value every possession – understanding the importance of doing our jobs every single time, and limiting our turnovers,” he said.