New-look WolfPack take the floor
If you knew the TRU WolfPack men’s basketball team three years ago, you might have no idea who they are now.
Head coach Scott Clark has completely overhauled the WolfPack, who finished 4-20 last season and missed the playoffs for a sixth straight season.
Not one player who will take the court this year for the Pack was on the team during the 2009-2010 campaign.
“We could say we’re rebuilding or, in this case, building,” said Clark, who’s office looked like a student’s dorm room in the days leading up to a big exam, with notes and binders strewn across the floor.
KTW interviewed Clark on Thursday, Nov. 3, two days before the revamped Pack opened a two-game set against the Fraser Valley Cascades.
Fraser Valley, ranked seventh in the nation, beat TRU 77-69 at the Tournament Capital Centre (TCC) on Friday, Nov. 4, but the WolfPack bounced back with a 91-83 win over the Cascades on Saturday, Nov. 5.
The win on Saturday marked the first time TRU has beaten a nationally-ranked team in six years of Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) basketball.
TRU’s bench boss, entering his second year in charge, brought in nine new faces this summer to augment the four returning players — forward Chas Kok and guards Kevin Pribilsky, Brett Parker and Brett Rouault — from the 2010-2011 campaign.
Justin King, a California-born forward who played high-school basketball in Las Vegas, is unquestionably the most exciting new addition to the Pack.
He made an immediate impact against the Cascades, scoring 52 points and pulling down 26 rebounds on the weekend.
“He’s filled a void on the basketball team, in terms of scoring and rebounding,” Clark said of King, who played last season with Skagit Valley Community College, winning the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges most valuable player award.
King is just one of the new faces Clark is counting on to replace graduated 7-foot-2 forward Greg Stewart, last season’s CIS defensive player of the year.
Stewart, in addition to his defensive prowess, averaged 13.3 rebounds per game.
“With Greg gone, we’re going to expect a lot more rebounding from the rest of our team,” said Kok, a fifth-year player, who, like King, came to TRU by way of Skagit Valley.
Kok said the addition of Akeen Pierre, a Calgary-born guard, will help fill the hole Stewart left on the defensive side of the ball.
“I know [Pierre] can guard anybody in the CIS,” Kok said.
“He can really play.”
Forward Will Ondrik, a product of B.C. High School basketball powerhouse White Rock Christian Academy, stands 6-foot-7 and is expected to contribute on both ends of the court in his first season of CIS play.
There are two Kamloops products on TRU’s roster this season, 6-foot-10 twin brothers Ivan and Blaz Bozinovic, both of whom graduated from St. Ann’s Academy.
The WolfPack, now 1-1 in Canada West play, travel to Alberta this weekend to play the Calgary Dinos on Friday, Nov. 11, and the Lethbridge Pronghorns on Saturday, Nov. 12.
Clark will get his first chance to see how the new-look Pack react to playing in a hostile environment.
“There has been a lot of stuff thrown at them,” Clark said.
“Everything from travel, to how to behave in a classroom, to how we practise and the system we play.”
Judging by the WolfPack head coach’s comments, there will be plenty of in-house competition for playing time as the season moves forward.
“There are standards that we need to adhere to and, if we can meet them, we’ll have a chance to be pretty good,” Clark said.
“If some people don’t meet those standards, we’ll have to look elsewhere.”