February 28th, 2012
The 2012 PACWEST Basketball All-Stars have been announced !!
1st team All-Stars awards go the VIU's Richard Townsend-Gant, Jacob Thom, Shayna Worthington and Kayla Gromme.
2Nd team All-Star accolades went to Jocelyn Jones.
Men's Coach Tony Bryce wins Coach of the year ...again!!
Read more in the NNB
Read this Nanaimo Daily News feature ...
Thursday, March 01, 2012
The Vancouver Island University Mariners men's basketball team has come a long way since a rocky exhibition season had head coach Tony Bryce questioning the team's potential success.
Now as the Pacific West Athletic Association championships get underway, he knows full well what his team is capable of: a national championship.
That's clearly the goal, but Bryce is also fully aware the road to the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association finals is fraught with two giant hurdles - he won't even let conference awards shake his focus and resolve.
This year has been focused entirely on winning a national championship in Nova Scotia.
"There's been some growing pains, but I predicted it," said Bryce. "There's been a lot of new faces and personalities and we spent a lot of time . . . building towards this moment so we can appreciate and trust each other on the court. I hope all of those growing pains pay off come crunch time."
The Mariners struggled the entire preseason, unable to secure a win. But then the season started and they slowly found their game.
They had one hiccup in Week 2 - an 84-68 loss to the Douglas Royals - but didn't look back again. They have won 13-straight contests and have secured the top seed in the country as well as B.C. heading into the provincial tournament this weekend at Capilano University in Vancouver.
Having the target on their back is something they are used to.
"I like it," said forward Richard Townsend Gant with a grin creeping across his face. "It's something that I thrive on. It's something I feel as a team it's something that we all thrive on and I think we are going to prove everyone wrong. We have the talent, the coaching, everything."
The Mariners have been off for a full week since the end of the regular season. The last game they played was Feb. 18 and by the time they tip off against the winner of the Langara College Falcons and Capilano Blues in the PacWest semifinal 13 days in between games.
The break, however, has been a welcomed one as they healed up and fine-tuned their game.
The first round bye is something they are more than eager to accept as well, not wanting to play three games in three nights and increasing their chance of getting upset.
"This league is tough, there are so many good teams and whoever we play is going to be gassed," said veteran guard Jacob Thom.
"Having the extra day off is big, especially if we only have to play two games on the weekend instead of three, which is what we're used to."
Key to their success is going to be the continued team-first theme that they gave rallied around this season.
"We know any of our players can have a good game, there's no guarantee who is going to have a 20-point or 30-point game, so everyone has to make sure we stick together and stay positive," said Richard Gant. "No one's rooting for us, no one wants us to win, we have to stick together to make sure we do those things."
The Mariners received some early kudos for their PacWest season as Townsend Gant and Thom were named to the first all-star team and Bryce coach of the year on Wednesday.
Townsend Gant, in his first year after transferring to VIU, averaged 17.63 points a game, good enough for sixth in B.C., while leading the conference in rebounds with 9.25 a game. Thom, in his final season with the Mariners, was second in the PacWest in assists with 5.69 a game.
Bryce is also in his final year after announcing at their home finale that he was leaving.
None of them, however, were basking in the glow of the awards.
"Individual awards are always nice . . . but we try to develop our bench, we don't over play anybody and we don't worry about individual stats and we never have," said Bryce. "As far as coach of the year goes, a leader is only as good as his troops, that's a team award. I don't win that award without these guys."