ABBOTSFORD — His game has always been built around such a diverse package of skills that perhaps it’s taken all of us these past three seasons to appreciate the true depth of his talents.
Yet if the practice sessions which have just now begun wind up leading to some semblance of a men’s basketball season in early 2021, there will be no mistaking the presence of a player who might best be referenced as the Fraser Valley Cascades’ Toor de Force.
“We lost three senior starters from last season,” reminds Vick Toor, the 6-foot point guard who, while uncertain of the prospects of an actual Canada West season amidst the current state of the pandemic, has returned to Abbotsford for his fourth season at UFV.
“Just being one of the older guys, I do feel that I need to step it up and help the team as much as I can,” added Toor, a native of Kent, Wash., who is majoring in communications with a minor in business.
With guards Parm Bains and Sukhjot Bains, as well as bruising forward Matt Cooley having graduated, and with Joe Enevoldson having been hired in early May to succeed longtime bench boss Adam Friesen as the program’s new head coach, the new identity of Cascades’ men’s basketball is as yet not fully formed.
Yet what is clear is the fact that Toor, the team’s top returning scorer (10.4 ppg) from a season ago, has developed into one of the program’s foundational players.
In UFV’s dramatic 92-84 sudden-elimination overtime ouster of visiting Winnipeg last Valentine’s Day at the Envision Athletic Centre, it was Toor who topped six Cascades in double figures with a game-high 19 points, and also shared the game-high in rebounds with Cooley at nine.
And earlier last season, in UFV’s 84-82 win over UBC, there he was again, leading the way with 19 points and seven rebounds.
Yet coming up with clutch performances in his team’s biggest games is just one aspect of that aforementioned deep bucket of diverse skills.
His baseline-to-baseline speed is amongst the conference’s elite, he rebounds well beyond his stature, he uses his athleticism to stick his nose in defensively, and while he had played largely a combo-guard role with Parm Bains since entering the team’s main rotation, he is already third all-time in assists in Cascades’ U Sports’ history (2006-to-present) with 224, trailing only Kevon Parchment (277) and Manny Dulay (275).
“He is that experienced student-athlete who has been through the day-to-day process of a university team,” begins Enevoldson, the former Douglas College head coach who over the early stages of the pandemic buried himself in video sessions to become more familiar with the nuances of all of his returning players. “When this team started to ascend last year (winning 11 of 12 before a season-ending 78-63 conference quarterfinal setback at Calgary) was when he was inserted into the starting line-up and played with such great freedom.”
Returning guards Jordyn Sekhon and Kenan Hadzovic, a pair of former hometown products from W.J. Mouat Secondary, are also back.
And among the recruits are another pair of guards in Dixie State transfer Zubair Seyed and Douglas College transfer Cameron Morris, as well as highly-touted front-court twins Mattias and Zach Klim, each standing 6-foot-10 and coming from Chilliwack’s G.W. Graham Secondary.
Just how the Cascades’ latest backcourt incarnation shapes up is still a mystery, but what is known is that whatever form it takes, the subtleties of Toor’s game will allow him to compliment whomever he is paired with.
That much seems sure, based on the ways Toor found to be at his best late in the campaign, while still allowing Parm Bains to play to his strengths of creating and knocking down shots, many from the depths of the perimetre.
“They complimented each other very well because between the two of them, they could score from all three levels of the floor,” said Enevoldson when asked what he saw during his video sessions, ones which not only showed how Bains capped his time at UFV by finishing with a conference-record 3.24 deep makes per game for his career, but how Toor’s fluidity took him to the rim when the opportunities presented themselves.
“Vick is one of the quickest guys in Canada West, with or without the ball in his hands, and he’s a pretty good mid-range shooter,” Enevoldson added. “Parm, he was obviously one of the best three-point shooters in Canada West history. So they scored it from all tiers.”
Sekhon and Hadzovic bring their familiarity with each other and with Toor to the table, and Morris played last season under Enevoldson at Douglas College.
Seyed, part of Ryerson’s U Sports national finalist team in 2017-18, brings incredible quickness himself, and seems set to bring instant impact to the program, potentially in partnership with Toor.
For his part, Toor says playing alongside Parm Bains last season has spurred him to work on the one part of his game that still needs to play a little catch-up.
“Playing with Parm was great,” said Toor. “He obviously was a great shooter, and that is something I want to add to my game this year.”
Right now, however, everyone invested in pulling on a jersey this season and taking to the floor for their respective Canadian university team, is in the process of dusting the mothballs off their games.
The Canada West announced that it had cancelled its fall sports season back on June 8, noting that conference seasons for those sports which bridged the fall and winter sports seasons — basketball, volleyball and ice hockey — could start no earlier than Jan. 1, but that no decision would be made on their status before Oct. 8. Exhibition games within specified cohorts remain a possibility if conference seasons wind up being cancelled but at present, it’s all a waiting game.
Toor, in fact, came north across the border in late August with 6-foot-5 fourth-year forward and fellow U.S. teammate Jaskarn Bajwa, a Fremont, Cal., native, ready to take the fluidity of the situation in stride, but first knowing that isolation was a certainty.
On Sept. 11, the pair were finally able to emerge from their 14-day quarantine and join their UFV teammates on the practice floor.
“It was tough,” admitted Toor, “but we were blessed that the NBA was on. We had three games almost every day so we were downstairs watching TV. It was a long 14 days, but thank God for the NBA.”
Interestingly enough, while Bajwa had academic priorities to attend to on his first day out of quarantine, Toor was required to come straight off the couch and onto the starting line at Abbotsford’s Rotary Stadium to run a 2.4-kilometre time trial with the rest of the team.
“He was house-bound for two weeks, so all things considered he did a great job,” said Enevoldson who is just now meeting his players in person.
“With COVID, you are getting to know your players as people first,” Enevoldson added. “Before you’ve really had a chance to see them play, you’re learning about their personal side and that is something beneficial towards growing a great culture.”
Vick Toor’s diverse package of skills, both on and off the court, will undoubtedly play a big part in just that, because based on all of the new faces this season, he admitted there is the feeling of something akin to a new beginning.
“I am going to lean on him in a leadership role,” the coach says. “I’ve been impressed with his leadership and his ability to buy into change, because there is change.
“I am looking forward to him being exactly what he is, which is a senior leader, and a great guy in the classroom and in the community. All of that is going to resonate with him and help him be great on the floor.”
In other words, it seems the time is right for Vick Toor to become a Toor de Force.
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