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LANGLEY, British Columbia
–.The last time the Trinity Western Spartans men’s basketball team was on the court for a game, it was Feb. 2 and a 90-83 loss to UBC was tasting awfully sour.

The Spartans had finished the season on a four game losing streak and, thus, were forced to the sidelines for the Canada West postseason dance.

But that was then. And this is very much now.

With the Minnesota Golden Gophers in town to play the Spartans Friday night, the slate is clean, the outlook on the 2010-11 season is bound with optimism and the team and its fans are antsy to get going.

With key returnees including former CIS player of the year Jacob Doerksen (5th year, Abbotsford), Tyrell Mara (5th year, White Rock), Lance Verhoeff (5th year, Calgary) and Calvin Westbrook (4th year, Courtenay, B.C.) joined by top new recruits like Portland State transfer Kyle Coston (4th year, Blaine, WA), Fraser Valley transfer Tristan Smith (4th year, Los Angeles) and Eli Mara (1st year, Surrey), the sense is that the potential is vast.

And by tipping things off against a Minnesota team coached by Tubby Smith and one that has been to the last two NCAA tournaments, a lot of lessons will be learned tonight and the team will quickly discover both its strengths and weaknesses.

“It’s early in the season and we’re just going to find out what all are players can do,” said Spartans coach Scott Allen. “It’s a great evaluation time. That’s probably the key part. Guys have been working really hard in training and now the pay off time has come.

“I think they’re going to expose us for our weaknesses and then it’s time to go back and look at tape and the players will realize where their weaknesses are and where our strengths are and then we can start capitalizing on those before we get into the regular season.”

With the load of talent already accrued at TWU from last year, combined with the new additions, this is arguably the best men’s basketball roster ever assembled at the Langley-based campus.

And, it’s likely, with impressive size to the Spartans advantage (11 players are 6-foot-6 or taller), the play in the paint will be a strength all year for TWU and, against Minnesota, will be a hotly contested battle.

Another interesting aspect of tonight’s game to watch for will be the battle for the starting point guard position between the incumbent Daniel Horner, Smith and Eli Mara. Last year Horner averaged 4.8 points and 2.2 assists per game in 22 games but will have to fight like crazy to retain his position on the depth chart.

As for the opposition, last year Minnesota posted an overall record of 21-14, but one that saw them win only three of their 11 games on the road.

The team did make a surprise run to the Big Ten Championship final – beating Purdue and Michigan State along the way – before losing to Ohio State 90-61.

Minnesota will be led largely by senior guard Blake Hoffarber – the winner of the 2005 ESPY Best Play when he knocked down a game-tying shot in high school from a sitting position – Ralph Sampson III, who led the team with 5.8 rebounds per game last year and Devoe Joseph, who hails from Pickering, Ont.

Other players to watch for include the Gophers other Canadian Maurice Walker (Fr. Scarborough, Ont) and sophomore forward Rodney Williams who is projected to be a first round pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.

About TWU:

Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a not-for-profit Christian liberal arts university enrolling over 4,000 students this year. With a broad based, liberal arts and sciences curriculum, the University offers undergraduate degrees in 41 major areas of study ranging from business, education and computer science to biology and nursing, and 17 other graduate degrees including counselling psychology, theology and administrative leadership. For more information, visit TWU's Official Athletics site at

About Canadian Interuniversity Sport:

Canadian Interuniversity Sport is the national governing body of university sport in Canada. Fifty-two universities, 10,000 student-athletes and 550 coaches vie for 21 national championships in 12 different sports. The CIS also provides high performance international opportunities for Canadian student-athletes at Winter and Summer Universiades, and 32 World University Championships. For further information, visit

About CWUAA:

Canada West is consistently the most decorated of the four conferences in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), winning at least 10 CIS national titles every year since 1997-98. Comprised of 14 schools, from the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, Canada West produces numerous major award winners and Academic All-Canadian student-athletes each year, with many going on to athletic success around the globe in pro leagues or events such as the Olympics, Paralympics or Universiade Games.


Last Updated: 2010-09-03
Author: Mark Janzen