Bonita Joe

Following a host of pre-season activities and weeks of training, the Camosun College Chargers basketball teams are preparing to kick-off the PacWest season at their home openers this weekend at the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence.

In conjunction with starting a new school year in September, the teams held their annual Tip-Off Dinner Fundraiser which raised over $18,000 for student-athlete scholarships. The teams also hosted a set of Alumni games and a free Coaching Clinic, and kicked off their Fall Fundamentals Basketball Academy which runs every Sunday straight through to December. In addition, the squads have been working diligently in the gym with PISE’s Athlete Development Coordinator, Matt Fisher as well as competing in a number of exhibition games and tournaments both home and away in preparation for the PacWest season.

“The league is looking very strong,” said Chargers Men’s Basketball Head Coach Craig Price. “There seems to be a slight shift towards the lower mainland and more parody within the league. I believe we are capable of competing with anyone but we’ll need to out-work most teams and be more disciplined than we have shown to date.”

Key players for the Chargers men’s squad will be a mix of newcomers and a small core of returnees. Beginning his first season with Camosun is 6’6″ forward James Blanford, a local Stelly’s product who came to Victoria from England. Blanford is described as an extreme athlete who is expected to do some special things for the program. Following a hiatus recovering major reconstructive leg surgery, former UVic student Trevor Scheurmann from Winnipeg also joins the Chargers. The 6’6″ forward is another of Coach Price’s special recruits possessing a very high basketball IQ. Wing man Paulius Makulavicius from Kitsilano will most certainly be seeing some court time in his rookie year as a very versatile scorer and playmaker, as will Oak Bay grad Drake Downer who is a hyper-competitive player with deep range.

These athletes join a small core of returning players including fourth-year guard from Nanaimo Blake Mansbridge who last year earned a BCCAA All-Star, CCAA Academic All-Canadian and National Scholar Athlete, second-year point guard Jordan Elvedahl (two-time “AAA” All-Star, BC Summer Games and U16 Provincial Team player) and second-year point guard Brandon Chan whose speed and tenacity is equaled by none.

On the women’s side, Camosun’s veteran experience will come from third-year wing/point Anya Weare from Salmon Arm. Transfers Caitlin Marshall (wing) who played three years at the University of Guelph and Alex Allen (point/wing) who comes to Camosun following two years at Thompson Rivers University will also top the veteran’s list. The Chargers are hopeful that second-year wing/point Aija Salvador (Oak Bay) who was voted last year’s BCCAA Women’s Basketball Rookie of the Year, will soon overcome her pre-season injuries to play at the level she is capable of.

In a league that will be dominated by teams with experience, Camosun is faced with the reality that it will have its hands full keeping up with the pack.

“Vancouver Island University and the University of Northern BC have rosters filled with third, fourth and fifth-year players and are expected to start the season well ahead,” said Chargers Women’s Head Coach Brett Westcott. “Capilano University is another team with a large number of experienced players returning to their roster and expected to do well as the defending Provincial Champions.”

Coach Westcott added, “We have struggled at times with our youth and a lack of attention to detail, but we are getting better. Whether it is good enough to compete with the best teams in the league will be determined over the next few weeks.”

Catch the Chargers kick off the 2011-2012 PacWest basketball season this weekend at the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence. Watch the games LIVE on Sports Canada TV

Fri, Nov. 11 Camosun vs. Kwantlen Polytechnic University Eagles W6pm; M8pm

Sat, Nov. 12 Camosun vs. Langara College Falcons W1pm; M3pm