NEW WESTMINSTER — It’s Monday morning, following a weekend in which Canada’s reigning university basketball dynasty was brought to a grinding halt, and Joe Enevoldson seems a little out of breath as he answers a reporter’s phone call.
“I’m riding an exercise bike,” the charismatic head coach of the men’s basketball team at New Westminster’s Douglas College says. “It’s a great stress reliever.”
That’s certainly not to be taken as a sign that the Royals, PacWest men’s champions for the first time since winning their last CCAA national title back in 2008, are feeling overwhelmed by the moment.
Instead, you can say in a figurative sense that Douglas College is pedalling just as hard today as they were at the start of the season as they head to Quebec and a date with Calgary’s SAIT Trojans on Thursday (5:30 p.m. PDT) in their nationals opener at Laval’s College Montmorency.
Bring up the Ryerson Rams halting the historic bid of the Carleton Ravens to win a record eighth straight U Sports national title with a Final 8 semifinal victory Saturday, and Enevoldson admits that within the confines of the CCAA’s PacWest Conference, Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island University are the only comparable.
And the fact that Douglas College (11-7) had handed the Mariners (17-1) their only loss of the regular season gave them the confidence to be able to follow with a 76-59 win over VIU in the PacWest championship game earlier this month, earning the conference’s lone berth to nationals.
“Having watched Carleton and VIU play, defensively you see a ton of similarities,” says Enevoldson. “Defence wise, physicality wise they are both so tough. So it’s about getting over that and believing you can win.”
And while Douglas College has SAIT to prepare for now, focusing on VIU is, to a large extent, revealing in terms of the growth of the Royals’ program.
For Enevoldson, completing the task of defeating the Mariners is huge, especially considering that VIU head coach Matt Kuzminski has a stunning 107-15 record with the Mariners since he became head coach for the 2012-13 season.
“One of the things you have to find a way to get over is the VIU mystique because they have been so dominant in the playoffs the last 10 years,” Enevoldson continues. “It’s one thing to say that you have team with a shot to potentially beat them, and it’s another to actually beat them. So that earlier (Jan. 26) win was a huge indicator that we could be successful. I mean, a guy like Grant had never beaten them.”
Enevoldson is referencing guard Grant Campbell (Surrey-Fraser Heights), a five-year Royal, who in his final season, along with the likes of other DC seniors like the Langley-Walnut Grove pair of Paul Getz and Ethan McKean, Noah DeRappard-Yuswack (Vancouver-Kitsilano) and Karun Samra (North Delta), has a chance to go out on top of the CCAA hoopsworld.
Look at that Royals’ roster, and with few exceptions, it’s a born-in-B.C. group filled with players who starred over their high school days, many at the Langley Events Centre’s B.C. championships.
Campbell was very much an unknown quantity coming out of high school, yet the former Firehawks guard has been the model of consistency, and this season became the all-time points-scored leader in the history of BCCAA/PacWest men’s hoops, breaking the 15-year record of former Capilano University Blues star Choyal Brown.
Yet before you say he did it in five seasons instead of four, like many others, Campbell set the mark just five games into the current campaign.
“He came in under the radar, and that is an amazing feat,” said Enevoldson of the record, considering all the great guys that have played in this league like Randy Nohr (Aldergrove) and Aaron Mitchell (Terry Fox), Louis Johnson (Richmond) and of course Brown.
“The thing about Grant is his consistency to approach,” Enevoldson added, “and that’s what you need to average 15 points-a-game for your entire (five-year) career. I like to say that he is what you would call the perfect student-athlete.”
The Royals’ roster as a whole has also shown consistent growth, and when that growth comes form a core of fourth- and fifth-year players, an expected mental toughness should surface.
Clearly, it has.
Enevoldson starts Campbell and McKean in the backcourt, with Morris, DeRappard-Yuswack and Getz in the front court. All but Morris are fifth-year seniors.
And third-year transfer guard Kameron Nelson, who has melded well off the bench, is a JC transfer guard from California who has added to the dynamic nature of the team both offensively and defensively. Josiah Mastandrea and Shane Toporowski also average double-figures in minutes-played for the Royals.
The last Douglas College Royals’ men’s team to win the national championship, back in 2008, included the likes of soon-to-be Gonzaga Bulldog Bol Kong, national Player of the Year Billy McNutt, Andrew Sturgeon and CCAA finals MVP Graeme McCallum.
Enevoldson and Jamie Oei, the head coach of the 2008 Douglas College national title team, both served as former assistants under UBC head coach Kevin Hanson.
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