Vancouver Island University’s basketball teams had the hops to make it to the top of the standings at the winter break.
The VIU women (12-0) and men (11-1) both lead the Pacific Western Athletic Association standings at the end of the fall semester.
The Mariners women are defending national champions, and although it’s a very different group, this year’s team is showing a lot of promise, said Tony Bryce, VIU coach.
“A lot of games and a bit of a roller coaster, but it’s to be expected with a lot of new faces,” he said. “To come out with positive results is always a good thing.”
He said the Mariners are tough to scout because they feature a number of contributors who can cause trouble for teams in a lot of different ways.
“We’re likely to have different leading scorers every night, almost,” he said. “I like our depth, I like our versatility in our scoring and I like our unselfishness. We really like to share the basketball and get excited for each other scoring.”
The holiday break is welcome for VIU’s women, as the coach said players are tired and have quite a few injuries that could use time to heal. The M’s will reconvene after Christmas for exhibition games in Victoria, then will host the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in the new year before the PacWest schedule resumes.
Bryce said in the second half, he’ll be asking for more consistency from his group so that they’re prepared for the playoff-style games that the PacWest brings during the stretch drive.
“I don’t think we’re complacent by any means,” he said. “I think we know we can be a better version of what we are right now and we’re going to challenge each other to do that.”
In the fall semester, Makayla Kimble led VIU in scoring with 13.6 points per game. Kaia Simpson is third in the PacWest with 8.0 rebounds per game and Katelynn Forner is in the top 10 in the conference in assists (3.0 per game) and steals (2.5).
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As for VIU’s men, they’ve also exhibited a lot of strengths including a depth of contributors that has helped them win almost every night.
“As a group, we’re starting to figure out who we are and where everybody fits in and where our rotation’s at and play a little bit better collectively,” said Matt Kuzminski, the team’s coach. “It’s taken a long time with this group, just with all the new faces.”
Players have been given opportunities to earn key minutes and have taken advantage, the coach said, whether it’s making shots or having an impact on the court in other ways.
The team building will continue on and off the court this month, as the Mariners men are planning a trip to Arizona at the end of December for a junior college tournament against challenging opponents. After that, the players will help build the game as they assist with a winter break youth camp at the VIU gym in the new year, and the PacWest season resumes a week later.
“Once it gets going, the games come every weekend and it will be kind of a charge to the finish line,” Kuzminski said. “It will be so action-packed … Good challenges and I’m looking forward to it.”
Adam Anhold led VIU’s men in scoring this fall and is third in the PacWest with 16.5 points per game, and he leads the conference in rebounding with 10.6 per game. Kaeleb Johnson is fourth in PacWest scoring at 16.4 points per game and Ryan Bastian is third in the conference in assists with 5.2 per game.
For more information about the camp Jan. 3-5 for children ages 8-15, visit http://mariners.viu.ca/camps/camps.