Westbrook eager to take his game to next level

Calvin Westbrook

Men's Basketball (Article)
Tuesday, September 15, 09
From: Comox Valley Record


By Earle Couper - Comox Valley Record


The stars are aligning for a successful season of Trinity Western University Spartans basketball.

TWU head coach Scott Allen enjoyed several stellar high school seasons with White Rock Christian Academy, and he is welcoming former Vanier Towhee stalwart Calvin Westbrook to his roster for the upcoming CIS campaign.

The two share a hoops history, as Allen coached Westbrook on the B.C. U17 team for two years (2004 and 2005), and both are appreciative of what the other brings to the court. “Calvin is a fiery competitor who is well disciplined and believes in himself, and I feel fortunate to be able to coach him once again,” said Allen in a TWU news release.

Speaking with the Record last week, the personable 21-year-old Westbrook was equally effusive in his praise for Allen. “Scott has been a huge influence in my basketball career since I was about 17 years old and through to now. He constantly pushes me and challenges my goals and me and the aspect of not being happy (at the level) I am at.”

And Westbrook has been playing at a high level for some time. After dominating the B.C. high school basketball scene, he went to NCAA Div. 2 Cal State Stanislaus for two years, winning all-academic honours both years.

“Things went well, but I don’t think I lived up to the expectations I put on myself. Our team just wasn’t in a place where it was going to succeed. I decided it was time to come back (to B.C.) and Scott was the big pull in playing for TWU. I got calls from UBC and UVic but had my mind set on going somewhere where I knew that we were going to build a winning program.”

That winning program began last year. Alllen decided to leave WRCA for TWU in February and in May Westbrook announced he would be joining the Spartans. As per CIS transfer regulations, Westbrook sat out last season, but he’s excited about suiting up for the Spartans for the next three years.

The 6’,5”, 210-pound Westbrook doesn’t think the year off will be detrimental. “I think that it’s helped me in the sense that my body had a chance to recover and get stronger and faster and hopefully more skilled – but we’ll see,” he smiled.

“I also expect it’s going to take me a few games to get back into it. It’s been a year-and-a-half since I laced it up in a game that meant something.”

Born and raised in Courtenay, Westbrook also holds Australian citizenship as his dad Chris is from Down Under. He said his dad and mom Mary visit Australia every year since he and sister Taryn moved out on their own.

His family has played a key role in his development as an athlete and well-rounded individual.

“When I was young I started playing squash because my parents were squash players. I played golf because my father’s a golfer. I got into soccer with my sister. Basketball came when I was about 11 or 12 years old. I didn’t start playing seriously until I was 13.”

At that time Westbrook was playing in the Thunderball League and participating in the annual summer camp run by Vanier coaches Larry Street and Grant Ashlee. “They said ‘Hey, what are you doing playing soccer? You’re already big and you’re good with the basketball.’” Westbrook said Ashlee and Street were very influential in making sure he played guard. “A lot of kids when they’re tall get stuck playing post. I remember when I was really young them saying to my dad, ‘He needs to play guard. That’s where he’s going to succeed at.’”

Westbrook said his sister has been one of his biggest supporters in his basketball career. “When I was young, 13 or 14, and she was 15 or 16 we’d go out and play in the driveway and I remember her beating me,” Westbrook recalled, noting with a smile that his sister was taller than him back then.

While back in the Valley for the summer this year, Westbrook staged the third annual Yeti 3-on-3 Tournament, which helps raise awareness and funds for the Comox Valley Youth Basketball Association. He was hoping to hold a clinic, but time was at a premium due to his job as a special needs support worker. “Hopefully next year I can run a camp. Now that I’m getting older I’m really trying to make an effort to help out the young guys, like some of the older guys did for me when I was young.”

Westbrook says longtime Vanier coach Street has been his biggest b-ball mentor, and Street has nothing but praise for his former player. “I really can’t say enough about the most mature young man I’ve ever been associated with.

“Of course, we’ve worked with many great young people who are ahead of themselves athletically, emotionally, and socially, but Calvin is at the top of the bookshelf. He is such a personable young man who impacts all who meet him and work with him,” Street said. “He was captain of his college team in California in only his second year (usually unheard of) and there apparently was a push by fellow students for him to go for school student president ... a testament to his character. (Westbrook was student body president at Vanier).

“He is the first to ask me if he can help with young kids, or speak at a clinic or banquet, or work with an up-and-comer. All these characteristics are testament to his fine grounding through his awesome parents Chris and Mary,” said Street, who guided Westbrook through a brilliant prep career.

“We’re speaking of disputably one of the best high school boys players in provincial history, who has scored more points than any other boy,” Street noted. “It helps when you average 28 points as a Grade 10 starter, which very few other boys have ever done in B.C.; most are just good role players.”

Street notes Westbrook averaged just under 3,000 points (29.6) over his high school career. “What many don’t know is his outstanding shooting percentage over those years of 64 per cent, unheard of in basketball circles. He also averaged eight rebounds, four steals and a very respectable 3.5 assists a game, which is not easy since he was our primary scorer.”

Street said Westbrook will be a CIS all-star before his days are finished at Trinity Western, “and sooner than later I think. He would be a starter at any program in Canada for various reasons ... natural athletic quickness and strength, and his unparalleled competitiveness. That may be where he’ll help Trinity the most because the other players will jump on his back due to his great work ethic.”

Street’s assessment is shared by Westbrook himself who, when prompted, sums it up in one word: grit. “I feel like I’m an extremely hard worker on the court. There’s a lot of skilled players out there, but what separates everybody is how tough you are physically and mentally.

“I like to say I’m a basketball player; I’m not a shooter, not a driver, not a guard, not a post. I’m just going to go out there each game and give my team what is needed.”

Westbrook will be bringing all that to Trinity, where he will be playing shooting guard for a coach who brings a positive approach to the game. “(Scott’s) put together this team and he expects us to win. He’s the kind of coach you walk into the gym and he doesn’t say,’I hope we win.’ He says, ‘We’re going to win.’ That doesn’t mean we win them all, but two years ago the team won six games and last year they went 17-6, winning 15 in a row at one point. There’s a difference in attitude and ability to recruit, and that gives you some idea of why I’m playing for him.”

Westbrook says the Spartans have a good core of returning veterans, including CIS MVP Jacob Doerksen and point guard Louis Heard, as well as transfer Tyrell Mara, a White Rock native who comes to TWU from NCAA Div. 1 Portland State.

Mara was the 2005 B.C. AAA MVP playing under Allen at WRCA, and just one year later it was Westbrook’s turn in the provincial prep spotlight as he was named B.C. High School Male Athlete of the Year. That’s on his personal highlight reel, along with the 52 points he scored against WRCA at the 2006 provincials. (His 44.5 points per game B.C. record – in just two games that year – still stands).

“Another huge highlight was my only university game up north. We played St. Martin’s University in Seattle and all my family and friends and Larry got to come and watch. That was the only college game that a lot of my friends got to see me play in. Obviously I look forward to them watching me a lot more now.”

Westbrook’s skills earned him a spot with the B.C. provincial team in 2003, 2004 and 2005 and the 2005-06 Canadian junior national squad, which beat China in a tournament. “It’s just good experience training and playing with the national team,” he said, noting current NBAers O.J. Mayo (Memphis Grizzlies) and Greg Odon (Portland Trail Blazers) were among the opponents he faced. “It helps being around high-calibre guys like that.”

Westbrook, who is studying a double major in English and Human Kinetics with an eye to becoming a teacher, is at TWU this week for the Spartans’ preseason training camp. Regular practices will commence when school resumes and the Spartans launch their bid for a CIS championship.

Last Updated: 2009-09-15
Author: Earle Couper -Comox Valley Record