November 17th, 2013
Fortin the centre of attention
Third-year forward has stepped into leadership role with the VIU Mariners
By Josh Aldrich, Nanaimo Daily News
As a centre, Jason Fortin is undersized, but he has played a big game so far this year for the Vancouver Island University Mariners men's basketball team.
The third-year forward out of Dover Bay Secondary School only measures in at six-foot-four in a position often dominated by players as much as eight inches taller than Fortin.
Instead, he has thrived, posting huge improvements in most of the major statistical categories. He did start last year, but was not as much of a focus in the game plan with players like all-Canadian Tyler Olsen and veteran Ryan Davidson ahead of him. Now that they have graduated, the pressure is on him to do a lot of the dirty work.
"It is definitely tough being an undersized centre, but you've just got to use your body and it's mainly just effort," said Fortin. "A lot of the time the guy working the hardest is going to get the rebound."
He went into the off-season with a strong understanding of what the expectations would be on him for the 2013-14 Pacific Western Athletic Association campaign, and trained specifically for that.
He says he also learned a great deal from going up against guys like Davidson and Olsen, who is still on the M's bench as an assistant coach.
The work has paid off. Through five games he is averaging 12.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists a game. Last year he was at 9.05 points, 5.14 rebounds and 1.0 assists a game.
His rebound total has him third overall in PacWest in rebounds, behind teammate Seth Goodman at 9.6 and Langara Falcon Brody Greig at 9.2 rebounds a game.
"Now that we're not battling with each other day in and day out in practice, you learn how hard you have to work in this league to be successful," said
Fortin, of Olsen. "He's always there to fine tune things like your post moves and give you tips."
Mariners head coach Matt Kuzminski has worked with Fortin since he was on the Dover Bay Dolphins Grade 8 team, and has seen him progress a great deal in the eight years since.
Mostly, he has been impressed with how Fortin has approached the challenge of taking over a spot formerly held by an all-Canadian.
"He's relentless in his ability to outwork people and not get tired," said Kuzminski. "Just his pursuit of the ball makes him a good rebounder."
Last season's national championship was also a big for Fortin. He got to experience what it took to go all the way. He also played a big role in getting there, he was not just a passenger on the bench.
"It takes everyone buying in," said Fortin. "It gives you confidence and experience heading into games. When you face adversity, everyone knows how to handle it and you know you can never get to low and never get to high, everyone has got to be buying into the same systems.
" Fortin also takes a lot of pride in playing for his hometown program. The Mariners have focused a lot of their recruiting efforts on their own back yard, though they are certainly supplemented by American stars like Brandon Jones from Portland and Goodman from Katy, Texas.
"We love having local guys, not just to support our community, but because they are around all summer to train and get better, and often those guys do get a lot better over the summer," said Kuzminski.
This weekend, the Mariners will get another opportunity to assert dominance on the Island. They complete their first half home and home series with the Camosun Chargers on Friday with an 8 p.m. tip off at VIU.
The two teams opened the season against each other on Nov. 2, a game VIU won 77-66 - a score that flatters Camosun.
The Mariners enter this game as the lone undefeated team in the PacWest and the Chargers are stuck in sixth place.
But they are not taking their rivals from Victoria lightly.
"It's always an emotional game, and they'll be jacked up to play us," said Kuzminski. "I think the guys are mature enough. .. not to take guys lightly. They've been burned in the past. .. anybody can win on any given night, so you've got to come ready to play."