EDMONTON, AB– Three new faces have joined the ranks of the Grant MacEwan University men’s basketball team for the second half of the season. Sheldon McKinney, Aubrey Chalmers and Jeff Sampson have stepped up to fill vacancies on the team’s roster. No strangers to a basketball court, the new recruits have all seen ACAC action at various other schools in past seasons.
Fans got their first look at the new talent during MacEwan’s first home game after the semester break Friday, Jan. 14 against Keyano College Huskies. Assuming his natural role as point guard, McKinney proved worth the effort of recruitment after putting up 23 points his first game back.
For the 5’7, senior from Edson, Alberta this is not his first time wearing the Griffin jersey. During the 08/09 season McKinney was team captain and named first team all star. Throughout his basketball career he played a year at Grand Prairie Regional College and two years at NAIT. During his last season at MacEwan, McKinney was among the ACAC north division leaders in assists and steals averaging 3.63 assists and 1.83 steals. Coach Ryan Dunkley says McKinney is the type of guy who can be “the back bone of the team.”
“He’s one of the most dedicated guys we ever had in the classroom, in the weight room, and on the court,” said Dunkley.
McKinney said his return came because the timing was right financially, and he wanted the chance to play his fifth year.
“I figured if I didn’t come back and play now I’d probably never come back and play,” said McKinney. “MacEwan was lacking someone with fifth year experience and they needed a point guard.”
Filling another of the guard positions is Sampson. The 6’2 player from Prince George, BC is in his second year of eligibility, but has been off the basketball scene for five years. His previous experience was at Grand Prairie Regional College during the 04/05 season where he led his team in scoring and assists. Sampson averaged 12.33 points per game, and 3.25 assists per game.
At the request of Dunkley, Sampson moved back to Alberta to join the Griffins.
“Dunkley asked me at the start of the year if I wanted to, but things didn’t pan out then so he asked me again when we unfortunately lost a couple of guys [to academic ineligibility],” said Sampson. “When he asked me again I figured I’d fill the spot.”
The third new team member has come to take back the spot he left in September. Chalmers started with the Griffins at the beginning of the season but had to return home to Toronto, Ont. because of family issues. Now the third year player is back and ready to get to work.
“Getting my cardio back and learning the plays is what I’m really working on right now,” said Chalmers.
For his first two years playing in the ACAC, Chalmers was a Lakeland College Rustler. In the 08/09 season he was in the top ten leading scorers and rebounders for the north division averaging 13 points and nine rebounds a game. Coach Dunkley believes he will be a great addition to the Griffins.
“Aubrey, I mean he’s 6’4, jumps out of the gym athletic,” said Dunkley. “He’s just kind of got to immerse himself in the culture of our program and kind of buy into what we’re doing and he’s going to be a huge help.”
With three new players, the team has maintained a full roster of 14. Dunkley says only time will tell how well the team handles having new additions halfway through the season.
“The guys have been pretty good about accepting them into the team but at the same time that’s in practice,” said Dunkley. “Once playing time becomes a factor then we’re going to see if guys are willing to put themselves behind the team.”
For the weekend games against Keyano Huskies, the team was able to come together to pull out two wins with a score of 96-67 for Friday and 76-70 Saturday. The Griffins are left with a 7-5 record.
They take on the NAIT Ooks, currently with a 10-2 record, Saturday Jan. 22 at MacEwan.