The University of Victoria Vikes men’s basketball team are being tasked with a do-it-by-committee spirit as they head in to their Canada West season this weekend, Oct. 26-27, against the Winnipeg Wesmen. Vikes head coach Craig Beaucamp has instilled the attitude that it will take more than just his senior class for the Vikes to be back at the top of the league, a view they have not had since the 2014-15 season.
The pre-season has been telling as the Vikes have stacked up home and away against some of the country’s top teams. Most recently, the Vikes had one of the best results against the perennial powers from Ottawa, the Carleton Ravens. Despite losing 72-55, the Vikes recovered to out-score Carleton 35-33 in the second half to give the 13-time national champions one of their toughest pre-season games.
“We had a tough pre-season with injuries early on and lots of people coming in and out of the line up,” said Beaucamp who had four home and two away games to fine tune his roster. “The schedule allowed us to face some good teams like Ryerson and Carleton who are probably one and two in the country and play some big games both home and away.”
Throughout pre-season the Vikes played the OUA’s Guelph, Canada West contenders Saskatchewan and Manitoba and the RSEQ’s Concordia and Laval. The Vikes concluded their pre-season with a 3-4 record.
“We are definitely going to have to do this by committee,” said Beaucamp, still noting his core of fifth years in Jordan Charles, Mason Loewen, Hayden Lejeune and Jake Newman. “They will all have a big impact and guys like Scott Kellum, Taylor Montgomery-Stinson and Jason Scully are going to also have to step up and contribute.”
With nearly the same roster as last season the Vikes will see senior leadership from the fifth-year quartet of Charles, Loewen, Lejeune and Newman. In the 2017-18 season Loewen led the Vikes in scoring, averaging 13.7 points per game and joined Charles as the only two Vikes to start all 20 regular season games. The senior duo led the Vikes defensively as Loewen averaged 6.5 rebounds per game and Charles averaged 5.9.
It will take more than four fifth years though if the Vikes hope to improve on their 11th place conference finish last year and 10-10 record.
“I think we are as deep as we have been,” added Beaucamp, a five-time Canada West Coach of the Year. “We can rotate 10 to 12 guys on any given night pretty easily.”
Montgomery-Stinson is the lone fourth year on the team, while third-year transfer Jesse Barnes joins the Vikes this year from Otero College. The third-year class also includes locals Graeme Hyde-Lay and Jason Scully, as well as 2016 Canada West Rookie of the Year Scott Kellum.
First-year Vike Aaron Tesfagiorgis, who was a red shirt last year, will be a key addition. In the Vikes’ first two pre-season games, the Calgary native chipped in with 11 points and 10 points.
“It’s Canada West games and we are on the road a couple of time zones away so Winnipeg will be tough,” said Beaucamp of the Vikes’ opening weekend. “They have had a pretty similar pre-season to us where they have kind of taken some time to come in to their own but right now they look like they are playing pretty good ball.”
The Wesmen are 2-5 in their pre-season after nabbing wins over Dakota College and Mayville State, while the team has had losses to Lakehead, Lethbridge, York and Brandon. The Wesmen are led by lone fifth year forward Sean Tarver who, at six-foot-four, has led Winnipeg through pre-season in scoring. Also making a showing so far in the pre-season have been third-year guard Narcisse Ambanza and second-year guard Joseph Medrano.
“It’s always tough going out to Winnipeg and going on the road in the Canada West,” described Beaucamp. “There is so much parity. There are maybe two or three teams at the top and then there’s really a log jam of teams that are in the middle. Going on the road and trying to get off to a good start is really important. You have to win your home games in our league and then you have to go out on the road and try to at least get one and hopefully two on the occasion.”
The Vikes and Wesmen will tip off on Oct. 26 at 6:00 p.m. pacific time and Oct. 27 at 3:00 p.m. at Duckworth Centre in Winnipeg, Man.
2017-18 CW regular season record: 10-10, 11th (9th in RPI)
2017-18 post-season record: 0-1, lost to Saskatchewan in Canada West play-in series
Head coach: Craig Beaucamp (16th Season) / 206-100
Last CW championship / total CW championships: 2014-15 / 16
Last U SPORTS championship / total U SPORTS championships: 1996-97 / 8
2017-18 CW regular season ranks:
Offence: 81.3 PPG, 7th
Defence: 80.8 PPG, 9th
2017-18 CW regular season leaders:
Key Returnees (name / position / hometown / years with program):
Jordan Charles / G / Duncan, B.C. / 5
Hayden Lejeune / F / Chilliwack, B.C. / 5
Mason Loewen / G / Victoria, B.C. / 2
Jake Newman / F / White Rock, B.C. / 3