The VIU Mariners are championship contenders, consistently.
And consistency isn’t a coincidence in college sports. Players come and go, some fail to make the grade, some graduate and move on. Those things happen, and have happened at VIU. During Jason Fortin’s five years with Vancouver Island University’s basketball program, the Mariners were led by a different top scorer seemingly every year.
One player, more than any other, provided stability.
“It’s the most important thing,” said Matt Kuzminski, VIU coach. “What I envision our culture to be, Jason is the perfect image of that … A guy who will do anything it takes to win for his team.”
VIU has done a lot of winning with Fortin as a consistent force at the forward position. He’s never failed to reach the provincial final, and has a chance to reach his fifth-straight in his final year at VIU.
Fortin plays his last-ever competitive game in Nanaimo this Friday (Feb. 26) as the Mariners close out the PacWest regular season.
A hometown favourite, Fortin was an all-star at Dover Bay Secondary, remembered for his buzzer-beating three-pointer at the end of overtime to win the Island championship in 2011.
He had a few post-secondary options back then, but chose VIU because he knew the program had potential to win right away. He was right – the Mariners hardly lost during his rookie season and he believes they were the best team in the country, though they ended up missing out on nationals.
VIU reached the top in his second year, winning the Canadian championship, and then last year, the team made it back to the national championship game and lost. Fortin’s final season with the Mariners is proving to be another special one, as the M’s are one win away from completing a perfect season.
“It’s more of a thing where when you look back, it’s a good achievement…” Fortin said. “If we have an undefeated season and we don’t complete our ultimate goal of winning a title, then it’s all for nothing, really – it’s a good year.”
What the perfect record shows is that this year’s team is among VIU’s best, Fortin said.
He’s a reason why. He’s always been a key defender and rebounder, and has taken on an expanded offensive role this year with scoring and with playmaking. He’s not the go-to guy most nights, but he’s happy to be one of the guys.
“I just want to win,” Fortin said. “If you have to sacrifice scoring or minutes for a team to have success, then definitely, myself personally, I’ll do that any day of the week.”
The thing about Fortin, said his coach, is that he does what it takes every day of the week.
“He is the hardest worker every single day and he has been for as long as I’ve [coached] him,” Kuzminski said. “Every single practice he holds himself accountable and his teammates, and those kind of things will be the most difficult to replace.”
Fortin will graduate with a science degree, specializing in biology and chemistry. He’s thinking about graduate studies at some point, but at the moment, he’s focused on finishing this basketball season the right way.
“It’s been awesome playing here,” Fortin said. “The memories that I’ve made are going to last a lifetime.”
And there’s a chance to make a few more memories: a perfect season, and maybe even a perfect ending.
GAME ON … VIU’s basketball teams face Camosun on Friday (Feb. 26) at the VIU gym. The women’s game tips off at 6 p.m. with the men’s game to follow at 8 p.m. Jamie MacFarlane and Jason Fortin, graduating fifth-year VIU players, will be honoured in separate pre-game ceremonies. PacWest championships start March 3 in North Vancouver.