Undefeated Vancouver Island Mariners Look to Keep National Title in the West
The Vancouver Island University Mariners are looking keep the CCAA National Championship trophy on the west coast for the third straight season.
Coach Matt Kuzminski is working to take his team back to the CCAA National Championships.
Last season the VIU Mariners won a silver medal in the PACWEST, however that was still not good enough to make it to Nationals.
The two teams representing the PACWEST last season were the eventual National Champions, Langara College, and Quest University, the host team.
Coach Kuzminski won the 2013 CCAA National Championship in his first season coaching at VIU and the Mariners are hoping to get back to Nationals and bring the title back to VIU.
Kuzminski knows that it won’t be an easy task.
“Our biggest competition is the reigning National Champs Langara College. They have a lot of size including one of the better players in the League in Jittinder Locham. Quest has also been very strong and at home they are very tough to beat.”
This season the Mariners return seven players, three who started last season, and brought in seven new recruits as well.
The key returning players are fourth year forward Jason Fortin and fifth year guard/forward Harrison Stupich.
The team’s most notable newcomers all have something in common; they were born south of the boarder. The Mariners brought in three transfer from the South: Justin King, Kadeem Stewart and Chris Parker.
Justin King is a 6’4 wing from Las Vegas who can score inside and outside. He shoots the three and can beat his man off the dribble. He also is the team’s best rebounder. King is a very versatile player who can really cause a lot of defensive problems in the league.
King has some experience playing in Canada as well. During the 2011-12 season he played for Thompson Rivers University where he led the CIS Canada West in scoring with 23.1 points per game and was third in rebounding with 10.1 per game.
Kedeem Stewart is a 5’10 point guard from Seattle who was named an All-Star for his Junior College (Shoreline CC -2012-13) in Washington.
With the Mariners losing their star guard Brandon Jones to graduation, they needed help at the point guard position. Stewart is a very athletic and fast point guard who uses his speed and his quickness to penetrate and get in the lane as well as defend in the full court.
The Mariners season started off very well as Justin King was filling up the stat sheets and the team was undefeated. King was off to a huge start for VIU as he was averaging 29.7PPG and 9.7RPG through the first three games until he went down with a high ankle sprain.
However, the Mariners haven’t slowed down without him. They continued to roll to 7-0 on the season with the help of Kadeem Stewart, who has stepped up since King went down.
Kuzminski said, “we try to play and aggressive defensive style, based around ball pressure and loading to the ball. Offensively, we like to attack early before the defence is set and then get into our offence with lots of ball and player movement.”
The Mariners enter the winter break undefeated and they are hoping to get everyone back healthy in the New Year to push towards another National Championship.