Port Alberni Hoop Stars

March 5th, 2013

Former ADSS hoops stars off to nationals
Jami Oliver and Jess Black of Port Alberni will compete for CCAA titles with the VIU Mariners
Scott McKenzie
ALberni Valley Times


Two former Alberni Armada basketball stars have moved on to playing college ball at Vancouver Island University, and both will soon be competing for a national championship.

Jami Oliver, a freshman at VIU, is fresh off a Pacific West conference championship and will be part of a sixth-ranked Mariners team that will take to Truro, N.S. in search of a national glory.

Jess Black has been around the Nanaimo campus a bit longer, and in his third season with VIU, they are looking to go deep into nationals. Black has not gotten much playing time this year, but the experience he is gaining is going to be pivotal as he moves into his final two seasons.

Of course, everything is new to Oliver, who up until now had her most high-profile basketball experiences winning multiple Totem championships at ADSS. So far, she has been getting between 15 and 20 minutes each game, which is relatively high for a first-year player.

VIU women's basketball coach Bill McWhinnie recruited Oliver out of ADSS and had his expectations high for when his new post player stepped on campus.

"I expected her to compete and work hard and earn her minutes like everyone else does," McWhinnie said.

Once she started playing, Oliver's minutes gradually increased throughout the season, and she began to earn even more floor time.

"She performed better and worked harder than I could have imagined she ever could have, and she's been a great addition for us," McWhinnie said.

At the PACWEST provincial championships, the Mariners were ranked second, but beat No. 1 Capilano 65-55 in the title game.

"It reminded me of playing at Totem with all the screaming fans," Oliver said. "To be able to play in a championship game like that was amazing, definitely an experience of a lifetime."

When the team leaves for CCAA national championships, which are held this year in Truro, N.S. and begin March 14, McWhinnie expects more of the same from his young forward.

"Jami's going to go out and compete and play hard and give us good minutes off the bench, and I wouldn't expect anything else from her," McWhinnie said. Of a chance to win a national championship in her freshman year, Oliver said "I'm hoping to play some of my best games and, as a team, we expect to play together.

"Throughout the whole season, we have been playing as a team, and we have been very successful doing that. Our coach has definitely prepared us for what is to come."

Unlike Oliver, Black has been to nationals before with the VIU men's team two seasons ago.

Now in his third year, Black may not be getting the floor time that he had hoped for.

"This year has been a little rough," Black said. "I haven't gotten as much playing time as I'd like, but the team's doing really well and that's all you can ask for. I just work hard in practice and keep going every day.

"I just try to be supportive of everyone and everything they do, and always be there for guys when they need it, and just work really hard in practice to make everyone better an push the team as much as I can."

However, winning that CCAA championship "would mean everything," he said.

The male Mariners won silver at the PACWEST championships, narrowly losing to Langara College 78-74 in the championship game, but they received a bye into nationals, which are being held at CEGEP John Abbott College just outside of Montreal.

The Mariners won bronze at nationals two years ago, and Black is hoping that experience will pay off.

"We have a lot of returning players, so we're hoping that's going to carry over into the nationals," he said. "We're one of the hardest working teams I've ever seen. Lots of people have told us that they've never seen a team that works this hard."

The Mariners go into nationals as the sixth seed in the tournament.

Black still has two years of eligibility left at VIU - he is also majoring in physical education with a minor in history - and hopes that he can see the floor more regularly in the future.

For now, though, he is hoping to do whatever he can to help is team win a national championship, because a nice new shiny ring never hurt anybody.

"It's going to be a really fun experience, but we have a really good chance at making it deep," Black said. "Hopefully we can make it to the finals and play Lan-gara again and get some revenge."

The women's championship game is set for March 18 at 8: 15 p.m., and the men will play theirs at 8: 30 p.m. on March 16.