Mills set to finish home career for Wolves
Three years ago, Matt Mills was just a sophomore basketball player in the B.C. Colleges Athletic Association (BCCAA).
A college student interested in taking taking the next step, the Abbotsford product was approaching a crossroads in his post-secondary path.
Three years later, and Mills is soon to be facing another route change. This time, the turn will come after the BCCAA basketball trail ends for the UNBC guard.
Life has interesting twists and turns. Mills is seeing one this weekend, as the fifth-year player’s final BCCAA home game for the Northern Timberwolves comes against the same Columbia Bible College (CBC) Bearcats squad he played his first two college seasons with.
The Timberwolves and Bearcats meet at 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday at the Northern Sport Centre. With a 14-2 record, UNBC is second in the 10-team BCCAA men’s standings.
Coincidentally, Mills will be in Abbotsford shooting hoops in two weeks, with CBC hosting BCCAA provincials March 3 to 5.
“I’m really looking forward to that. I think it’ll be a lot of fun,” he said. “It’ll be kind of cool playing my last provincial championship in a gym I played my first two years in so it’ll be fun.”
As for this weekend, Mills said it’s a bit weird their opposition is CBC.
“But it’s cool at the same time. I’m glad it’s against CBC. I had two good years there.”
Change came to both men’s basketball programs since Mills committed to UNBC in April 2008. Winning Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) nationals in Calgary wasn’t even a thought for the Timberwolves, as they were more focused on hosting the 2009 competition at the Northern Sport Centre.
Mills was recruited to UNBC by housing and residence life manager Zane Robison who, as head coach of the program, went on a recruitment drive which also saw the team land Spokane guard Inderbir Gill. A fifth-year player who played his first two college basketball seasons at Everett Community College in Washington State, Gill will also be playing his final home game in a UNBC uniform on Saturday. Four other current members of the team committed to the program that offseason – fourth-year post Jesse Smith and third-year guards Francis Rowe, Joel Rybachuk and Sam Raphael.
The Bearcats’ roster is entirely different than the 2007-08 lineup. But the head coach is the same. Mike McLaverty is into his fifth season guiding the squad.
“My first year (at CBC) especially, we had a great group of guys and guys who helped me adjust from high school to college,” said Mills, who attended Robert Bateman Secondary.
At UNBC, Mills has been guided by a few head coaches. Robison began his current role three months after Mills committed to the program. Robison’s replacement, Mike Raimbault, directed the squad for two seasons before taking on the head coaching role for the University of Winnipeg Wesmen Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s basketball team last April. A former assistant coach, player and UNBC student, Todd Jordan returned to his alma mater to take on head coaching duties after Raimbault left.
A year ago, Mills would’ve called finishing fourth as hosts of the 2009 CCAA national championship his biggest highlight as a UNBC student. But in reflecting on his UNBC tenure these days, the choice is obvious: winning CCAA national gold at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary last March. It’s a standing Mills would love to see for UNBC again, but as a defending champ, he said the challenge is greater.
This year’s CCAA men’s basketball championship tournament is scheduled for March 17 to 19 at Durham College in Oshawa, Ont.
“For sure, a lot tougher to repeat. Everyone knows us now,” Mills said.
Unable to begin taking geography courses full-time until he started studying at UNBC, Mills is planning to return to university close to home in the fall, applying to attend the Abbotsford-based University of the Fraser Valley.
Among the aspects of playing basketball at UNBC he’ll miss is the atmosphere at home games.
“The fan support and the fans are amazing,” he said. “The people are real nice, always helpful.”
In BCCAA women’s basketball, UNBC and CBC will meet at 6 p.m. this evening and Saturday.
The Timberwolves are 11-5 and tied with two other teams for third in points in the 10-team division at 22. Like their male counterparts, the UNBC women graduate two fifth-year players who will suit up for their final BCCAA home games on Saturday, forward Sarah Moxley and guard Christine Kennedy.