VANCOUVER — Even though it is arguably still one of a handful of the best basketball rivalries in B.C. basketball lore, it also is one which has been played so infrequently as to almost be forgotten by today’s generation of players.
Yet something as glorious as the Buchanan Cup, the formerly annual men’s hoop grudge match between Simon Fraser University and the UBC Thunderbirds, still oozes with roundball history, and Saturday (7:30 p.m.), when it resumes atop Burnaby Mountain for the first time in six seasons, the ever-changing plot-lines, as per usual, will not disappoint.
Through the mid-1990s, when the game was still being played more than it wasn’t, the late John Dumont was a key member of head coach Bruce Enns’ always-entertaining Blue-and-Gold, which included such stalwarts as Eric Butler, Gerald Cole, John Dykstra, Brady Ibbetson and Randy Ellis.
Almost a quarter-century later, longtime UBC head coach Kevin Hanson will bring his 6-0 team off the Canada West gold trail this weekend for Saturday’s tip at SFU’s West Gym by marching out Dumont’s oldest son, Jack Cruz-Dumont, as the team’s starting point guard. John Dumont passed away in 2016 at the age of 41 after a courageous battle with cancer.
The last Buchanan Cup game was played Oct. 27, 2015 at SFU and won 101-71 by UBC.
A huge crowd is expected for Saturday’s game, and while Cruz-Dumont admits he didn’t hear a lot about the game growing up from either his dad or mom Trixie, also a former Thunderbirds player, he has heard stories from so many others about the fervour of the rivalry and is excited to experience just what his dad did when he suited up against SFU for the crosstown rivalry all those seasons ago.
“I’ve heard more about the actual school rivalry, and since I’ve gotten to university I haven’t had that yet,” said Cruz-Dumont, a second-year former Vancouver College star who is in his fourth year at the school after both freshman (2018-19) and COVID (2020-21) redshirt seasons.
“I haven’t really felt it since our Saints games,” he said of the equally-electric feel which has traditionally accompanied both the home-and-away high school games between the Fighting Irish and St. George’s Saints.
As soon as the ball is tipped off on Saturday, however, Cruz-Dumont will experience not only what both his mom and dad when each took part in SFU-UBC games, he’ll be doing it with his younger brother Hunter Cruz-Dumont, a freshman, suiting up for hometown Simon Fraser. This season, the younger Cruz-Dumont has seen time in each of SFU’s first three games.
Yet this is the season Jack Cruz-Dumont has been building towards.
As mature a second-year as the program has had, his work ethic, patience and skill have fittingly converged on a deep UBC team, which while still looking to find its full chemistry, is the deepest and most versatile team he’s ever played on.
Ask Hanson, himself a UBC point guard in his playing days, about the fact the Cruz-Dumont, in his first season as a Canada West starter, has taken on the same role and in doing so is currently holding the second-best assists average (5.8 apg) in both the Canada West and the nation, and the pride in his voice is obvious.
“He worked so hard through COVID and then being put into the position of point guard,” said Hanson, “I’m thrilled about his stats, how’s he’s earned every second on the floor, and now he’s just out there running with it. Our team really needed him to step up and he has done that.”
And when you watch Cruz-Dumont in action, you see a lot of father-son comparisons, right down to the ease and the body language both display when they rise up in the paint to use the glass.
For his part, Cruz-Dumont admits that with a plethora of options, both in transition and in the half-court, everyone on the squad is still learning best tendencies with the myriad combinations deployed by Hanson.
“The first things that come to mind when you ask that question is balanced and super-deep,” said Cruz-Dumont when asked about the make-up of the team.
“We have our traditional starting line-ups, but we play lots of small ball with four and sometimes five guards,” adds Cruz-Dumont who is averaging nine points, the aforementioned 5.8 assists and 4.2 rebounds over 29.3 minutes per game this season. “So many guys can come in and give us different looks and bring real value.”
It’s unique enough that UFV-transfer Sukhman Sandhu, the 6-foot-10 former Tamanawis Wildcat, is shooting 63 per cent from distance, not only the best in the Canada West, but for anyone appearing in at least five games this season, No. 1 in all of U SPORTS.
And if they want to go big?
Sandhu and 6-foot-9 third-year vet Lincoln Rosebush have been excellent in the middle, and UBC boasts a four-deep rotation at the four-spot alone in Brian Wallack, Jamesley Jerome, Toni Maric and Tobi Akinkunmi.
Grant Audu, James Woods, Triston Matthews and Esaie Maurancy comprise the guard group along with Cruz-Dumont.
John Dumont’s best Buchanan Cup appears to have been in 1997 when he scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as part of a dramatic 74-73 ‘Birds win at UBC.
On Saturday, the son gets to follow in his father’s footsteps once again.
“It feels like it’s been a long-time coming with the COVID year and the fact that I red-shirted my first year, but I had to do my time,” Cruz-Dumont explains.
“It’s definitely been exciting stepping into a bigger role and it’s an opportunity I have prepared for. And I think this team is in a great spot. And that’s the thing I’m most happy about.”
BUCHANAN BITS — The entire UBC men’s coaching staff of Kevin Hanson, Sean Shook, Novell Thomas and Dany Charlery are former SFU assistant coaches. Thomas also starred for SFU as a player.
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