The UBC Okanagan Heat men’s basketball program has added St. Ann’s Academy’s Justin Melnychuk for the upcoming 2016-17 season
By Cary Mellon
KELOWNA, BC — The UBC Okanagan Heat men’s basketball program has added St. Ann’s Academy’s Justin Melnychuk (Kamloops, BC) for the upcoming 2016-17 season.
The 6’4″ Melnychuk, currently playing point guard at St. Ann’s, will likely be moving to a new position upon joining the Heat. “I don’t see myself continuing to play point guard for the Heat,” he says. “Coach Guarasci and I discussed me playing on the wing and I am more than happy doing so.”
As a point guard, Justin has been a regular starter at St. Ann’s for the past two years, after being a sometime starter in his grade ten year with the senior team. In his time with the St. Ann’s senior team, their best finish was fourth place at the Provincial tournament this past season.
Individually, Melnychuk was recognized as one of the best players in British Columbia in his senior season, as he was named a First Team All Star at that same Provincial tournament. He has also earned Honourable Mention status at the BC Catholic Schools tournament each of his last two seasons.
On the way to his Honourable Mention in his grade eleven year, Justin averaged roughly 23 points per game on the season. In his grade twelve year, his numbers improved, as he averaged around 28 points, seven rebounds, and four assists per game.
On top of averaging 28, 7, and 4, Justin scored 40 in five games this past season, topping out at 48, which he did twice, and earned a triple double once. One of his most impressive performances, though, is the one he remembers most fondly.
“My most memorable game this season was scoring 32 points along with 24 rebounds in our Provincial quarter final.” That ability to score while putting up enormous rebound numbers in a playoff situation is a testament to the newest Heat recruit’s skill and composure under pressure.
Coming from a smaller school UBC Okanagan Heat head coach Pete Guarasci hopes he has unearthed a gem in Melnychuk and thinks that Justin has potential to make an impact for UBC Okanagan.
“Justin has a good skill set and decision making ability at his size. With hard work he has the chance to develop into a impact player at the CIS level,” explains coach Guarasci. “We are excited to watch his development.”
“I believe my biggest strengths as a player are my shooting, and my basketball IQ,” says Melnychuk of his immediate future and what he expects his contributions to the Heat will be. “I am hoping to bring my overall strengths as a player but mainly I will work as hard as I can to succeed and develop into a great player under coach Guarasci.”
On the academic side of his upcoming career at UBC Okanagan, Justin knows the path he wants to follow. “I will be enrolling in the Bachelor of Arts (program) and my main focus of study will be Psychology,” he says, adding, “I am excited because this school has an amazing psychology program.” His long term goal, for now, is to graduate with a major in psychology.
In addition to basketball, Melnychuk played soccer for St. Ann’s for five years, and was the team’s keeper for three years. He and the soccer team made the Provincial tournament twice, finishing in fourth place in his grade eleven season and sixth in his grade twelve season.
As to why he is driven to be a high level university athlete, the answer comes down to the influence of siblings. “I have two older sisters and they have been involved in sports since they could walk just like me,” Justin says. “That is how I developed my love for sports and especially basketball.”
Justin will join a pair of Kelowna Owls as newcomers to the squad that went 8-12 last Canada West season. Six foot two guard Matt Lafontaine and 6’5″ Nav Sidhu, who projects to play on the wing, for the Heat will add their winning ways to the Heat after leading the KSS team to a provincial championship this past March.