Head Coach: Kevin Hanson
Assistant Coaches: Casey Archibald, Vern Knopp, Dahman Boudraa, Jamie Oei
2011-12 Record: 13-5 (Canada West)
Key Players: Doug Plumb, Tommy Nixon, Brylle Kamen, O’Brian Wallace, Jared Casey
- Isaiah Solomon – 6’0” Richmond, BC / Vancouver College
- Jordan Jensen-Whyte – 6’5” Calgary, AB / The Rock Academy
- Conor Morgan – 6’8” Victoria, BC / Mount Douglas Secondary
Departures: Nathan Yu, Kamar Burke, Balraj Bains, Malcolm Williams Mike Lewandowski, Nakai Luyken
With three incoming freshmen, a number of transfers, and only two players returning from last year’s team, the UBC Thunderbirds enter the season with a completely new look, and head coach Kevin Hanson is working to keep the perennial powerhouse among the elite teams in the Canada West.
Although this year’s recruiting class, which Coach Hanson described as “the future of UBC Basketball”, may be considered small, it does not lack for talent. Conor Morgan, a 6’8” forward with guard skills, and plenty of range on his jumper – who played for the Junior Men’s National Team at this summer’s FIBA Americas U18 Championship – may be the most intriguing prospect, but 6’0” point guard Isaiah Solomon looks to be the most ready to contribute right away.
Solomon, who is already sharing lead guard duties with Brandon transfer O’Brian Wallace, has shown the ability to be a game-changer defensively while remaining a steadying influence on the offense end. Coach Hanson identified Solomon as one of the surprises of the preseason.
“The guy that has really been a spark plug for us is Isaiah Solomon. We knew he was good, but he’s just doing a really great job for us right now, and playing with a maturity level that you don’t see in many freshmen.”
However, Coach Hanson recognized that his team’s success this season hinges on the play of his veterans.
“If you look at the successful teams, a lot of the times they’ve got a freshman that will come in and play beyond what they were expected coming into the year, but the veteran guys really have to carry you.
Hanson continued: “You need veteran guys. Guys that have played in front of hostile crowds, that have been on the road, that have played in those gyms, that can handle the pressure and still come out and have peak performances.”
3rd year forward Tommy Nixon and 5th year guard Doug Plumb are the two returning players, and they will be joined in the starting line-up by two NCAA Division I transfers: 6’7” forward Brylle Kamen, who has shown a nice mix of back to the basket and face up moves; and 6’11 centre Jared Casey, who is much more of a traditional post player.
On paper, the Thunderbirds look to have one of the most talented and versatile rosters in the conference, but Coach Hanson mentioned that his team still has a long way to go.
“I still don’t quite know how to measure us yet. We’ve had success on the scoreboard, but we’re nowhere near where I think we can get to. It’s a team that has a ton of potential, and I certainly want to push us and see how far, and how close we can get to reaching our potential.”
With respect to their style of play, Coach Hanson said he will stay true to his up-tempo roots, but he is placing much more of an emphasis on defense with this year’s team.
“My teams have always been ones that like to get up and down the floor. We want to establish ourselves as a very solid half-court defensive team. We’ll pick and choose our times to play full-court defense, but we want our identity to be that we’re one of the tougher defensive teams.”
Hanson continued: “When your guys work hard defensively, they deserve the opportunity to get the ball up and score in transition. We want to be that team that’s always looking to attack, always looking to push the ball in transition. You need those easy scores, especially at this level.”
When asked about the competition in the Canada West, Coach Hanson stressed that he won’t allow his team to take any nights off.
“You’ve got to be good from the get go. Playing twenty league games is a lot of games, but you can’t even afford one slip up, it might cost you the home court (advantage in the playoffs). This year there is a lot of parity in the league, so it could cost you a lot more than even just the home court advantage.”