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Season preview: VIU men's team changes, goals stay the same

Vancouver Island University’s men’s basketball team tips off the PacWest regular season this Saturday (Oct. 29) against Camosun.
VIU Mariners player Bryson Cox

An all-new VIU Mariners team will enter the season with the same goals and expectations it has every year.

Vancouver Island University’s men’s basketball team tips off the PacWest regular season this Saturday (Oct. 29) against the Camosun Chargers.

VIU, defending league champions, will bring a different look and a different lineup to the court.

“With 10 new guys, it’s been a bit of a process getting everybody on the same page, those kind of things, but the guys have worked very hard and I think we’ve gotten better as the pre-season’s gone on,” said Matt Kuzminski, the team’s coach.

He’s liked the way his players have made adjustments this year and said they’ve brought good attitudes and work ethic to practice.

Eric D’Andrea, veteran forward, said there’s a real positive energy and team-first mentality with this year’s group.

“There’s a lot of new faces, new guys, but I think everyone is really buying into what we’re trying to do and it’s been great,” he said.

The Mariners are taking small steps, but D’Andrea said they’re always forward steps, with an eye to where they want to be by season’s end.

“Our goals are still what they are from previous years I’ve been here,” he said. “Right now, we just want to get better day by day.”

Kuzminski said the Mariners have a chance to be a better defensive team, and will need to be, as they can’t expect a star player to carry them offensively as has sometimes happened in the past.

“The more we practise and play together, we’re starting to come together well,” said Jalen Schlegel, VIU forward.

A lot of the offence will flow through the newcomer Schlegel in the paint and he will be expected to be a top rebounder, too. Point guard Montell Lindgren, also new to the team, plays at a fast pace and likes to distribute the ball. Another addition, forward Usama Zaid, has been a high scorer in the pre-season. VIU veteran shooting guard Bryson Cox can score from inside or outside. D’Andrea has been elevated into a starting role this year.

Some other key contributors this year will be shooting guard Morgan Proctor, point guard Nick Xylinas and freshman centre Chase Hobenshield.

The Mariners played challenging teams in the pre-season and the regular season will bring more tough games as Kuzminski thinks a lot of the PacWest contenders could be better this year. Up first is Camosun, a team that returns a veteran, physical group.

D’Andrea said playing the Chargers is a great way to start the season.

“It’s always one of the most fun games of the year and I think that’s awesome for a lot of these guys who are new to the program; they get to experience what VIU’s really like,” he said.

GAME ON … The Mariners and Chargers play Saturday at 8 p.m. at the VIU gym. Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for seniors and alumni, $2 for youths and free for VIU students.