Having room for three international players adds a whole new dimension to the recruitment process according to Head Coach Kevin Hanson. He explains that as the competition for Canadian talent across the CIS league grows tighter and tighter, a growing pressure for international players to be allowed to compete has arisen. “We’ve intentionally jumped on board,” says Hanson.
The discussion reveals just how complex the world of recruitment has become.
“It’s really changed over my coaching career,” says Hanson, who is entering his 15th season with the team. “In the archaic days, it would be word of mouth, travelling to see players, getting VHS tapes and disks in the mail…Now it’s all emails with links. The number of videos we watch every year is astronomically high.”
Many student-athletes choose friends or family members to compile highlight reels to send out to prospective coaches around the country, while other rely on the growing number of professional agencies who charge a fee to compile clips and get players’ names on varsity athletics distribution lists.
Despite all of the layers now involved in player recruitment however, Hanson underlines how important building a personal network is for the team. Contact building is still a number one priority, underscored by the fact that all three of the international players had a personal contact with a member of UBC’s coaching staff which led them to the Thunderbirds.
Meet UBC’s International Men’s Basketball Players:
Kamen is entering his fifth-year of study, majoring in Sociology. He has been with the Thunderbirds for four years, after transferring to UBC after a year at San Jose State University in the US. A native of Paris, France, Kamen had many interesting observations to make with regards to the culture of basketball in the different milieus in which he has played.
“Basketball is not seen the same way in Canada as it is in the US,” says Kamen. “I would compare it more to France. Basketball isn’t as big here, so you have to find yourself within the sport and within the different context.”
When asked how he ended up so far from home, Kamen chuckles.
“It was very random!” Explaining that he was looking for a change after his year in San Jose, Kamen describes how he made it up to UBC. “Jamie Oei, one of the assistant coaches from last year, heard that I was looking at schools, and he invited me to come here and take a look. I did my research, and UBC is ranked at the top, so I thought, at least I will get a great degree.”
When asked how he has managed to balance academics and athletics, Kamen highlights some of the unique challenges faced by Thunderbird athletes which Hanson had alluded to previously: “Being a student athlete is complicated in Canada” says Kamen. He outlines the high expectations placed on Thunderbirds to both excel academically and within their sport. “I finally feel like I found a balance, but I wonder how the younger guys do it!”
Fasianos is one of UBC’s brand new recruits this year, hailing from Athens, Greece. A first-year Arts student, Fasianos brings an impressive amount of experience in the sport with him. Having played at an international school in Europe, and then at two different American schools for his grade 11 and 12 years, Fasianos has experienced basketball in many different environments already.
His connection with UBC began in Brussels of all places, where he was named an All-Star at an international high school tournament. UBC’s Assistant Coach Spencer McKay was impressed with his performance at the tournament, and happened to be a coach at an international school in Belgium. “He gave me his card and told me to get in touch if I ever needed anything,” said Fasianos “We’ve been in contact since then.”
Fasianos is tackling life as a first year head on, with clear goals for both basketball and academics. “I want to get a good education for sure,” he says, “and get good enough grade to either get into Sauder or Economics.” As for basketball, Fasianos is focusing on improving his strength and skills: “My goal for this year is to get as much time a possible in the games,” he says.
Sutcliffe is Thunderbirds other new international addition to the roster this year, and his story truly reflects the far reaches of technology and globalization into the world of recruitment. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Sutcliffe had never visited Canada much less UBC before accepting his offer to come and play for the Thunderbirds. His initial contact with the team also came from McKay, who was in touch with one of Sutcliffe’s coaches back in Australia.
Because of the incredibly high cost a trip down under would have incurred, the Thunderbirds had to think outside the box to engage with Sutcliffe and judge whether or not he would be a good fit for the team. They watched various clips of his performance, along with a live stream of one of his games.
“Video doesn’t lie,” says Hanson. “It doesn’t tell the whole truth but it doesn’t lie either. When you’re an experienced coach, you can pick up on a lot of things from watching video, and you can see if that’s the kind of guy you’re looking for.”
Sutcliffe and his coaches also Skyped the coaching staff here at UBC a few times in order to establish a personal connection as well. Sutcliffe made a great impression, and that along with his talent and potential sealed the deal. “You take a chance on a guy like that, he’s 6″9!” jokes Hanson.
For Sutcliffe, the transition has been smooth. “Coming over here was tough for the first week, meeting new people and settling in and everything, but after that everything’s been great,” he says. “There’s no time to worry about anything!”
Sutcliffe says his goals for the season are simply to train hard and get as much court time as possible. “I’m looking forward to it!”
Kamen, Fasianos, Sutcliffe and their fellow Thunderbirds will make the trip to Manitoba this weekend for a pair of games against the University of Winnipeg.