Team Canada - Lee Hamilton Feature NDN

January 12th, 2014

Lee Hamilton targets spot on Team Canada

Mariners' alumi working with the Full-Time Training Centre

Josh Aldrich / Daily News
January 16, 2014

Lee Hamilton was one of the most dominant middles in the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association the last couple of years, now he is tying to prove he belongs amongst the best players in Canada while trying to crack the national team.

The 23-year-old Regina native was a two-time all-Canadian with the Vancouver Island University Mariners the last two seasons. He graduated as a fifth year senior and this fall caught on with the Volleyball Canada Full-Time Training Centre in Gatineu, Que.

The six-foot-seven, 180-pound star was back this week in Nanaimo working out with the current Mariners with the national program still on break.

"It's awesome, it's the highest level in the country for guys who don't have anywhere to train with university teams, it's nice to be able to stay at a high level and an even higher level than I am used to playing," said Hamilton.

Hamilton's career finished on a high last year with VIU. He helped the M's to a berth at the CCAA championships on a wild card and for the second straight year he was named the top middle in the country.

With the FTC, he is training with a whole new level of player.

The group is made up of the top eight players from around the country, with every other member coming out of Canadian Interuniversity Sport programs.

This includes the two other middles Hamilton is competing with: Toronto's Joseph Brooks starred at the University of Manitoba while Ottawa's Jérémie Lortie played at the University of Laval.

Hamilton is not daunted by the step up in competition.

"I've played against a couple of these guys growing up on the provincial team. .. so it's not new to me competing against these guys," said Hamilton. "But I like it because they're some of the best players in the country, so when you're training five days a week with them, you're going to get better."

Hamilton had to apply to become part of the program, and did so after last season ended. He was invited out to a camp in the April and was told he would be a good candidate for the FTC program.

In June he got an email telling him to drive out to Gatineau at the beginning of October.

"That was a good day," he said with a grin.

The players in the FTC all have a goal of playing for the national team, and they will get the opportunity to try out for the B team at the end of April. The B team plays a number of second tier tournaments around the world like the University Games last year. It is a development team for Team Canada.

From there, the goal is to make the team that will be trying to qualify for the Summer Olympics in Rio in 2016.

"It's hard to judge right now if I have spot on that team, all I can do is work hard every day and hopefully the coaches like my work ethic and want to see my improvement with the Canadian team," said Hamilton.

The other potential opportunity is to play professionally in Europe, where the sport is a lot bigger.

Several players from the FTC in recent years have made that jump after a training trip to France last year.

"It's good exposure to pro teams and club teams and even agent," said Hamilton. "That's

long term. My goal is just to work hard every day and make the B Team. .. then we'll figure out stuff after that."

With all of this happening, he still felt the draw to return to the Island and check in on his old team. He stays in regular contact with head coach Abe Avender and does his best to follow the club during the season.

Hamilton's departure from the club left a gaping hole in the lineup, but it has allowed for the emergence of second year middle Wayne Woyciehouski.

"It's always tough asking first year years. .. or second years like Wayne to fill the shoes of vets, that's how it always is, I faced that situation when I first came to the school too," said Hamilton. "They're doing good, it's a tight league this year, so it's good to see them go out and battle."

The Mariners host the Capilano Blues this weekend at 8 p.m. on Friday and 3 p.m. on Saturday. The women play earlier at 6 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively