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By Ali Lee, Vikes Communications

VICTORIA, B.C. – The University of Victoria Vikes men’s basketball team face NCAA Division 1 competition in their official opening match of the season this Sunday. The pre-season game will pit the fresh-faced Vikes men against the Eastern Washington Eagles from the Big Sky Conference on Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. on UVic’s Ken and Kathy Shields Court in the McKinnon gymnasium.

After graduating three fifth-year starters from last season, the Vikes will be looking to a new class of veterans to carry on the Vikes basketball legacy in to the 2012-13 season. Head coach and three-time Canada West Coach of the Year Craig Beaucamp will return for his 10th season after an impressive 14-4 conference record in 2011.

“We have a pretty strong core of returning players this year,” said Beaucamp. “Sometimes it is not necessarily who is new to the team but who is returning. We are hoping some of the guys from last season who maybe didn’t get a lot of minutes last year will step up and play a more significant role this season.”

Beaucamp will be looking to his two fifth-year athletes Michael Acheampong (Toronto, Ont.) and Pierce Anderson (Calgary, AB). Acheampong was second on the team in points last season, averaging 19.9 PPG, while six-foot-seven Anderson was a consistent and key rebounder for the Vikes.

Key returnees for the Vikes will also be third-year Chris McLaughlin (Oakville, ON), second-years Vijay Dhillon (Richmond, B.C.) and Ted Neilson (Nanaimo, BC). Neilson returns after taking a year off from school and at six-foot-six will be a big presence for the Vikes in the four spot.

The freshman class of 2012-13 includes Kyle Peterson, a talented guard from Edmonton, as well as six-foot-five guard Brin Taylor. Both have seen court-time in pre-season scrimmages and will get a further opportunity to showcase themselves this weekend.

The Eastern Washington Eagles, under head coach Jim Hayford, finished the 2011-12 season wit ha 15-17 record and finished fourth in the Big Sky Conference. The Eagles will rely heavily on starting returnees Jeffrey Forbes and Colin Chiverton after graduating three seniors.

“Anytime a NCAA Div. 1 team comes up here to play us we know that they will be a handful,” said Beaucamp. “Most Div. 1 teams you know are going to be talented and overall athletic but right now it’s more about us at this time. This is an opportunity for us to evaluate where are at at and get some early game situations in. It is really an evaluation tool for where our players are at and what kind of promise they have moving ahead.”

The Vikes men will tip off on Sunday, Sept. 9 at 6:00 p.m. on Ken and Kathy Shields Court in the McKinnon gym. The game will be streamed live at http://uvic.canadawest.tv