VANCOUVER — There is so much that Grant Audu can do on a basketball court, that for his entire university career, he’s been cast in a series of demanding roles.
The UBC Thunderbirds’ rising fourth-year forward has not only made each of those his own, in the process of doing so he’s shown himself to be one of the most versatile players in the Canadian university basketball world.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the roles he’s being offered just keep getting bigger and better, like the new one he got on Wednesday.
With as many as two more years of university eligibility remaining before he’ll bid adieu, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Audu will get his first professional experience after the Fraser Valley Bandits of the Canadian Elite Basketball League made him one of their three selections in its annual U Sports draft.
The Toronto native will be joined this summer on the Bandits’ roster by 6-foot-8 Adam Paige, the rising third-year Alberta Golden Bears forward via Surrey’s Semiahmoo Totems, and Anthony Tsegakele, the 6-foot-6 rising second-year forward with the Brandon Bobcats who distinguished himself as one of U Sports’ top rebounders in 2019-20.
For Audu, it’s serendipity defined.
“I want to go in and see what the next level is all about… to try and compete at the highest level, and bring what I can bring,” Audu told VarsityLetters.ca. “I am going to soak up all the game knowledge I can, all of the work ethic and the habits of pros. I am blessed to be able to get first-hand experience. Not many get it while they are still in school.”
Yet not many possess the kind of across-the-board credentials of Audu. His blend of technique and tenacity allow him to so capably defend anyone from the point guard to the post at the U SPORTS level. Meanwhile, his improved consistency as a shooter has magnified just how effective he is at getting to the rim.
UBC head coach Kevin Hanson, in thinking back to the qualities which first drew him to recruit Audu into the program, relishes the fact that this summer’s professional opportunity with the Bandits will only serve as a further tool for enhancement.
“We saw a guy that was physically tough, that was mentally tough,” remembers Hanson who along with former UBC assistant Spencer McKay, scouted Audu back east prior to the 2017-18 season.
“We get knocked a lot here on the west coast for being a bit soft,” Hanson continued. “We wanted some toughness and this was a guy that really brought it on the floor… a strong, athletic guy who gets to the rim and can defend one-through-five. At 6-4, we saw something that we thought could be special and we are just super-glad he stuck through the process.”
In fact that entire process of dues-paying can be emotionally debilitating, especially if you’re not prepared for it.
Hanson is well aware of what awaits the majority of the CEBL’s U SPORTS’ draftees in terms of the scarcity of available minutes during the regular season.
Yet he is confident Audu knows precisely what mindset to take into the experience.
“If you’re leading your U SPORTS team and you’re used to scoring points and used to playing minutes, and now you’re in the role of being a role player, it can put life in a different perspective,” Hanson explained. “So for them, they have to be strong individuals and realize this is part of the learning process.”
Seeing too far into the future has been next to impossible since the pandemic hit, and for his part, Audu isn’t looking any further at the moment than the start of Bandits camp, followed by the hopeful resumption of Canada West play with the ‘Birds in 2021-22.
And when he returns from his pro experience, Audu will be even more ready to shoulder the responsibility which awaits him at UBC.
“This is going to be his year to shine,” Hanson said. “I think it’s going to be his team as the elder statesman. He is the captain. He’s a leader. The situation couldn’t have worked out any better for him.”
Whether guarding any of five positions, or manning any of four others in an offensive capacity, Grant Audu took on virtually every role he could have imagined.
In the end, it helped him define a basketball identity in high demand.
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