NCAA team will hoop it up in Nanaimo

Thirteen-year-old Christopher Ilyn gets some tips from Vancouver Island University Mariners guard Jacob Thom at a camp at the VIU gym Tuesday. - GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin
Thirteen-year-old Christopher Ilyn gets some tips from Vancouver Island University Mariners guard Jacob Thom at a camp at the VIU gym Tuesday.
— image credit: GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

Maybe, basketball season for the Ball State Cardinals will start in the Vancouver Island University gym and end at the NCAA March Madness tournament.

However basketball season ends, the start should be interesting this Sunday (Aug. 14) when the Cards take on the VIU Mariners in men’s exhibition action.

“I think it’s a fantastic experience for our kids to play against competition at that level,” said Tony Bryce, VIU coach. “They’re expected to take a run at winning their conference and making the NCAA tournament, so I expect them to be extremely athletic and explosive. We’ll have our hands full.”

August is a long way off from basketball season, but Bryce said his players only take a month off at the end of each season, so he expects them to be in shape and ready to play.

“For me it’s a chance to kind of have an early look at guys and see where they’re at with regards to fitness and how sharp they are,” the coach said. “And the big one is gauging our compete level.”

He doesn’t expect the visitors from Indiana to go easy on the M’s. Coming all this way, Ball State will be trying to utilize its exhibition games to get better.

Bryce said the Cardinals are the real attraction and said basketball fans rarely get a chance to see such gifted athletes up close.

But his team, reigning provincial champions, will of course be the fan favourites in their home gym.

“Our guys have just got to go out and play. Don’t over think it, you’ve got nothing to lose. If you’re open, knock it in. Compete,” Bryce said. “If you do that then I think the fans are appreciative of that.”

The coach said his team has never “rolled over” against any opponent, and won’t start now.

“Our job is to try and give them a game and that’s what we’ll do,” said Bryce

GAME ON … Sunday’s tipoff is at 2 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for students and free to kids 10 and under … The Cardinals start their exhibition trip tonight (Aug. 10) with a 101-61 win over the Quest Kermodes in Squamish. On Friday Ball State plays the Trinity Western Spartans in Abbotsford.

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