VANCOUVER — The UBC Thunderbirds men’s basketball team may have had its highly-anticipated clash with NCAA Div. 1 UC Santa Barbara, scheduled for Friday at War Gym, cancelled by the visitors concerns with local air quality.
That doesn’t mean, however, that in the dead of summer, there was any lack of news emanating from head coach Kevin Hanson’s men’s program.
Here’s four things you need to know about UBC men’s basketball this week:
1 JUMPIN’ JONAH
Call it an eleventh-hour delivery.
Taiwan’s Jonah Morrison, a 6-foot-8 centre type, who is coming off averaging 9.5 points and 11.5 rebounds for Chinese Taipei at the FIBA U-18 Asian Championships, is the newest UBC Thunderbird.
Morrison, who also spent a part of the summer training with his native country’s senior national team, has recently gotten his visa clearance and has already begun workouts with his teammates at War Memorial Gymnasium.
“He’s more of a centre than a stretch four,” said Hanson of a player he discovered through one of his own players, Chinese native and energy guard Charles Dai. “When we looked at our team, we still wanted a bit more height in there, and we expect that he will be in our rotation.”
The purity of his purpose on the glass is unquestioned, and the interesting part will now be to see how Morrison builds chemistry around the rim with the likes of 6-foot-10 Grant Shephard and 6-foot-8 Patrick Simon.
2 A FAMILIAR FACE RETURNS?
UBC is hopeful that former guard Isaiah Solomon, a Vancouver College grad who came to the program as a freshman in the 2012-13 season, can resume his Canada West career on the Point Grey campus.
Solomon played for the ‘Birds through 2013-14, left the university game for three seasons, then resurfaced over the second half of last season in Nanaimo with the CCAA powerhouse Vancouver Island Mariners.
“He’s at a point in his life where he wants to continue his education so he took summer classes to upgrade and his classes just ended Monday,” reported Hanson of Solomon who is still on hold pending acceptance into UBC for the fall semester.
A determined ball-handler who thrived in a number of styles, Solomon was part of the same UBC recruiting class that included the now-graduated Conor Morgan, Jordan Jensen-Whyte and Brylle Kamen.
Solomon would give UBC a very deep presence experience wise in the back court following the recent additions of B.C. natives and NCAA Div. 1 transfers Jadon Cohee and Manroop Clair.
3 ALL SHOOK UP
Simon Fraser’s loss is UBC’s gain as Hanson said Tuesday that the indefatigable Sean Shook had left his position as the Clan’s lead assistant to accept a similar position with its longtime crosstown rivals.
Known to all as a voracious worker, Shook is described as a tireless force on the scouting trails both in B.C. and Washington, the latter where he was the former coach at Meridian High.
He also brings both head coach and administration experience from his time as the men’s basketball boss and athletic director at Squamish’s Quest University.
“When he was the AD and head coach at Quest, we scrimmaged them a few times and I loved the way he handled himself,” said Hanson of Shook. “He really proved that he could recruit. At SFU, he focused on the defence and I thought he did some really good things there.
“He’s a mature man who has run his own program, been an athletic director, and understands fund raising. He’s the complete package.”
4 WHEN THE SMOKE CLEARS…
Hanson confirmed that a scrimmage has been scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday at War Gym against CCAA national finalists Douglas College of New Westminster.
There was disappointment at UBC, Fraser Valley and Douglas, all of whom were scheduled to face the visiting UC Santa Barbara Gauchos on their three-game foreign tour to B.C.
But Hanson spoke for all in expressing a level of understanding for UCSB’s decision to not play during the B.C. wildfire season, which has had varying degrees of effect on provincial air quality.
“It was disappointing news and our practice took a step back last night,” said Hanson. “The guys were really looking forward to it, but you can never knock anyone for taking their athletes’ health into consideration. It’s tough to lose the game but we completely understand.”
Several student-athletes from the host schools had flown back to B.C. to begin earlier-than-normal practices to prepare for the series of games.
Others had even gone so far as to quit their summer jobs early to begin preparations.
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