Posted on: April 16, 2018
-The men’s basketball program at Thompson Rivers University has come a long way in the last few years. Under the direction of head coach Scott Clark, the program has made the Canada West post season the last five years.
Despite being knocked off in a one game ‘play in’ game at the hands of the University of Regina Cougars, there were a number of positives looking forward.
“We had some success this year,” Clark stated. “Obviously we had a winning record and were able to make the post season. The playoff game didn’t go as well as we hoped because of injuries but that’s five years in a row we’ve made the playoffs. That is a testament of the work ethic of the guys and their ability to embrace the process of trying to continue to get better and see how that takes you. “
The WolfPack had only one fifth year player in Luke Morris (forward, Mission, BC) and one fourth year athlete (Derek Rhodes, forward of Antioch, CA). Clark says the team’s progression didn’t exceed his expectations, he was happy the club took up the challenge of trying to improve. “You go into every season hoping that the players work hard, train, be good students and meet our expectations. As a group, we put some goals out there and they met that.”
When asked about any surprises either team or individual, Clark responds. “I was happy for a few guys. I thought Luke had a great fifth year. He shot the ball well, he shot and rebounded well. I feel really good that he had a great final year, finished his degree and is ready to move on with the next chapter of his life. At the opposite end of the spectrum I feel good for Tyus De Vries (1st year, guard, Chilliwack, BC). He is just opening the book. Being named to the Canada West all-rookie team is a great accomplishment for him. Over the past four seasons we have had three all-rookie team members. I feel good that we have been able to recruit some talented young guys. They have the opportunity to play and you have to feel good for them.”
Another player garnering praise from Clark was Anton Bilous, who will enter his fourth season of university basketball. The 6’4” forward from Cherkassy, Ukraine overcame a lot in his inaugural season of USPORTS basketball. “The future is bright for him. He came in and had to the ‘lay of the land’ as far as the level of competition, life in Canada, how we play, how our standards are. He was a good example of what all first year guys have to go through. A lot of them aren’t prepared for that. They think they are, but no matter how much they believe they are ready, it is tough. Moving forward, Anton has the chance to have a great season in 2018-19.”
Expectations on the fellow rookies will intensify next season.
Another player the coach is expecting big things from is 6’8” forward Enrico Nuno (Half Moon Bay, CA). “He sat out this season. We look forward to big things from him next year. He is a very talented player and will make us an even better basketball team. Having him in the lineup will be a plus. Two others who have the chance to make their mark are Jon Steele (forward, Chilliwack,BC) and Devin Halcrow (forward, Kamloops, BC). Jon had a very good season of practice and improved. Devin has really come along way. We have high hopes for both of those guys. That’s the next progression for those three. That they come in and will earn a more meaningful role. They have that capability and potential.”
Clark is expecting Rhodes, Joe Davis (3rd year, forward, Kamloops, BC) and Michael Rouault (3rd year, guard, Vernon, BC) to take the leadership torch from Morris and be successful with it. “All three took major steps forward. I think all three aren’t satisfied with that. They are kids that want to continue to improve and won’t sit back and do nothing. The level of effort of their commitment to train, refine their skills, and become better leaders will intensify. Since they are all progressing at the same pace, it’s hard for any one of them to get a lot of praise individually but all three are really good players in Canada West, really good teammates and we are fortunate to have them here. I am really happy for them that they all got some recognition but because each and every day they bring their ‘hard hat and lunch pail’, the recognition gets glossed over. It is fun to be able to coach these guys.”
The team handed out a number of awards at their wrap up event: Morris was named the most inspirational player. Most improved player went to Halcrow. Most Valuable Player as voted on by the players was Joe Davis (3rd year, forward, Kamloops, BC).
“That was really deserving,” says Clark. “I thought he played well, has improved and is a major component of what we do now.”
The Skye Buck Character Award, which goes to the player who best embodies the core values of the basketball team and displays those qualities on a daily basis went to Rouault. That award is named in honor of the former UCC player who passed away in a tragic car accident a couple of years ago. He and his wife, who were both teachers, perished when their jeep left the road on the Yellowhead Highway near their home town of Clearwater, BC.