Women's BBall Quest for Title

August 26th, 2012

Mariners' title quest set to begin

VIU must replace Knievel and Rafnkjelson; bring in Mortimer, Vekic, Oliver, Cawthorne and Jordan
Josh Aldrich
Daily News

The Vancouver Island University Mariners women's basketball team one-game short of a Pacific Western Athletic Association title last season, something are out to rectify this year as they get ready for camp.

The Mariners, however, will have to find a way to replace two big pieces from last year's team: Brittany Knievel and Richelle Rafnkjelson.

Knievel will still be with the team, however, as an assistant coach.

To fill the void, head coach Bill McWhinnie has brought in five new recruits - Chardonnea Mortimer, Erin Vekic, Jamie Oliver, Megan Cawthorne and Cathy Jordan - and will also be relying on several players to take the next step in their development.

McWhinnie is also hoping a player or two comes out of the woodwork at their open tryout next week.

But his expectations are nothing short of a provincial gold.

"I would hope the group's goal is not just get to the final this year," said McWhinnie. "We ran into a very good team in the final last year in UNBC and I hope they learned something from that and maybe we can improve on last year."

Knievel played five seasons for VIU and was one of the PacWest's most dominant players in the post last season, averaging 13.75 points a game and 8.5 rebounds. She will be missed under the basket this year, but McWhinnie is hoping she can pass on her knowledge and experience to the group of forwards that will be trying to fill her shoes.

"She's worked very hard this summer with the kids that have been here and tried to develop some things and I think she will provide an energy that sometimes I can't provide," said McWhinnie.

That group includes the six-foot Mortimer, who is transferring in from Lower Columbia Community College in Longview, Wash. after two years. Also looking to make an impact in her first year will be six-foot-one Oliver who starred on the Alberni District Secondary School girls' basketball team for three years where she was an Island all-star.

"(Mortimer's) a good athlete, she plays very hard, she's good defensively, she's very active," said McWhinnie. "(For Oliver) the potential is there for her to play, she's got a lot of work to do and the potential is there to be a good player. We'll see how she adapts to college life and playing against bigger and faster players."

Rafnkjelson was a five-year guard for McWhinnie and was a valuable asset coming off the bench last year, averaging 5.38 points, 3.25 boards and 2.06 assists.

Veckic, who is transferring in after three years with the Kwantlen Eagles will get an opportunity to fill those shoes. Last year the five-foot-10 wing averaged 4.62 points, 1.31 rebounds and 1.15 assists in just 13 games.

"She's very intelligent, she's a very good shooter, she'll replace Richelle Rafnkjelson role of being a tall guard that can shoot the basketball, she's a willing ball handler, which is something we need," said McWhinnie.

Also added to the mix is Cawthorne and Jordan, a couple fivefoot-eight Cedar grads.

McWhinnie will also be looking to his returning players to take a bigger role on the team.

Jocelyn Jones made a great first impression in her first PacWest season at guard, averaging 16.13 points, 4.19 rebounds and 4.25 assists - third in the PacWest.

Kayla Gromme should also take on a bigger role at guard in her fourth year with the team, after averaging 11.38 points, 4.06 rebounds and 4.31 assists at guard - second in the PacWest.

Shayna Worthington is another potential player to pick up the slack from Knievel's departure after finally having her long awaited breakout season last year, her third with VIU.

Worthington tied Jones for the team lead in scoring with 16.13 points, but had a team-high 9.13 rebounds at power forward. The 16.13 points was also good enough for fourth in the league while she was fifth in the PacWest in rebounds.

Gromme and Worthington were named first team all-stars while Jones made the second team.

He also has high hopes for fourth year player Heather McCarthy who had a strong off-season.

But he will not know for sure until they get into camp, as he has not been able to get his team together during the summer for workouts due to the vast majority living outside Nanaimo. They were on their own to go through their prescribed off-season fitness and skills regimen. "It's quite comprehensive and it's something must do throughout the year," he said.

The Mariners open their training camp on Tuesday with a run at the Rotary Bowl at 4: 30 p.m., then will finally hit the hardwood on Wednesday and Thursday with their open tryout from 3: 30-5 p.m. at the VIU gym.