It’s rare to see a 17-year-old excel at the Canada West level, but W.J. Mouat grad and UFV Cascades basketball breakout player Kenan Hadzovic is the exception.
Originally tagged as a redshirt heading into the season, an injury to starter Nav Bains in the preseason gave him the opportunity to battle for a regular spot, and he hasn’t looked back.
Hadzovic has appeared in all 12 regular-season games for the Cascades this season and has hit double digits in points three times. He caught fire in UFV’s final game before the holiday break, collecting 20 points, five rebounds and three assists against Lethbridge on Dec. 2.
The 2017 Mouat grad turned 18 in late December, and Cascades head coach Adam Friesen said he has been thrilled with the progress his young point guard has made.
“The fact that he’s out there doing what he’s doing for us is pretty remarkable,” he said. “We had an unfortunate injury in the preseason and he got his opportunity to step up and he’s made the most of it.”
The UFV men’s basketball team has had an up-and-down start to the Canada West season, compiling a record of four wins and eight losses, but Hadzovic has been one of the team’s early constants. He helps run the offence, and his defensive play has helped him earn Friesen’s trust.
“He brings a toughness factor for us, especially on the defensive end,” Friesen said. “He’s an excellent on-ball defender, a great penetrator and the guys just love playing with him because he’s so unselfish. He always looks to make others better out there.”
Hadzovic said that basketball has always been around him.
“It’s kind of a family thing,” he said.
“Everyone in my family played basketball, and my dad, back in the day living in Bosnia, played with his cousins and other family. Everyone I looked up to played so I just followed in their footsteps.”
He played on teams throughout elementary and middle school, before donning the red and yellow of the Hawks as a junior and senior player.
It was also at Mouat where he said he developed under former Hawks and current Cascades coach Trevor Pridie.
“I love Trevor. I wouldn’t be the player I am today without him,” he said.
“I remember back when I was in Grade 8, I was at ARC in the summer just shooting around and Trevor was there. He approached me and we had a 100 shot contest against each other. I think Trevor hit 76 and I hit 75.
“After that, he kept looking out for. He coached me on the provincial team for a few years and then he was the senior coach for me at Mouat.”
The years at Mouat were good ones for Hadzovic. As a Grade 10 student, he helped the Hawks win gold at the Abbotsford Police City Basketball Tournament in 2014.
He was also a key part of the Hawks team in 2016 that finished fourth in the provincials for AAAA. That finish was Mouat’s highest provincial placing ever for senior boys basketball.
After graduating last summer, Hadzovic said joining the Cascades was the most logical choice.
“It was mostly because of Trevor,” he said. “He helped recruit me but it was also guys like Jordyn Sekhon [former teammate at Mouat, current teammate at UFV] that just made it a good fit for me.”
He said adjusting to student-athlete life was a transition to start, but he is now much better at juggling basketball with a full course load in engineering.
He said he sees good things from the Cascades in 2018, and they should be able to correct their slow start.
“I feel like we’re on the rise now,” he said, noting that the team won three of its last five games before the break. “Our chemistry is getting better and our confidence is going up. I feel like we’ve bought into what coach is telling us.”
Hadzovic said he wants to see the team continue to jell.
“I definitely want to see us in the playoffs and making some noise,” he said. “For myself, I want to be a more consistent shooter, work on limiting my turnovers and just get stronger.”
The Cascades men’s and women’s teams return to action with a pair of games against the Trinity Western University Spartans.
The clubs clash tomorrow (Thursday) in Langley, and then play in Abbotsford on Friday. Games tip off at 6 p.m. for the women, and 8 p.m. for the men.
For more on the teams, visit ufvcascades.ca.