Men's team starts strong while Women's team faces growing pains

For new recruits Mac Fairbairn, Sinclair Brown, rookie head coach Jordan Yu, and five other Capilano Blues men’s basketball players, home court has a double meaning this year. Yu is an ex-player at Capilano, while Fairbairn and Brown returned to the North Shore after the former played two years at the University of Saskatchewan, and the latter made stops at SFU and the University of Waterloo. Combined with Connor Lewis, Mike Zayonc, Connor Mahannah, Reece Gavin, and Sean Ashkenazy, the Blues boast a roster with seven North Shore natives.

Capilano has had great success in recent years at sending players on to universities across Canada – no fewer than ten players in the last four years. Bringing two of the North Shore’s top recent grads back, however, helps boosts the program. Still, that program will have to be reinvented this year.

Coach Yu stresses “I’m not going to reinvent the game.”

Yu replaces Paul “Ebe” Eberhardt, a Blues institution who led the team for the last decade. It was Eberhardt who was yelling, stomping, coaching and sometimes wearing a top hat on the sidelines when Yu led the Blues to the 2002 Provincial Championship, the same year he won tournament MVP.

North Shore fans took their first good look at the Blues on their home floor the weekend of October 9-11 during the Blues Classic tournament. The men picked up three wins and one loss over the weekend. On the other hand, the Blues women fared less well, sporting an inverse record of one win and three losses by the end of the weekend.

The men’s team opened up the tournament with a disappointing 83-78 loss versus as-of-then undefeated Kwantlen University, but followed with a 94-87 victory versus Quest University, a 92-69 defeat of Camosun College, and finally a 79-70 triumph versus Columbia Bible College.

The men’s team opened up the tournament with a disappointing loss versus as-of-then undefeated Kwantlen University, but followed with victories versus Quest University, Camosun College, and Columbia Bible College (CBC).

It took an impressive overtime performance for Capilano to defeat Quest, and Fairbairn, an Argyle Secondary alumnus, showed why he was a coveted recruit after his career with the Pipers.

Fairbairn explained his thought process at the time.

“It’s just one of those things – you try to assert yourself. The moment just presented itself.”

Coach Yu was in agreement, confirming “leaders emerged. . .from that win.”

However, Fairbairn stressed that “All the guys on our team are leaders themselves.” The Blues certainly boast one of the most experienced rosters in recent history.

He also admitted these first home court games were extra-significant.

“My mom only saw me play [at the University of Saskatchewan] twice.”

Fairbairn is an aggressive guard who can get to the hoop seemingly with ease, and matches his offensive intensity with his defense. He didn’t exactly look like a momma’s boy on the court, but he admitted that this home court advantage has been “something [he’s] missed.”

Yu admits, “I got pretty lucky” with recruits Brown and Fairbairn.

“They wanted to be home, playing in front of home fans, friends, family. It was a timing thing.”

Yu also managed to add Swaroop “Rupee” Clair, who has been shooting the lights out in the BCCAA for both Kwantlen and the University of Northern British Columbia in the past. Clair returned to the Lower Mainland from Prince George in order to better manage his diabetes.

With so many quality North Shore players, Yu is pleased, to say the least – especially considering he wasn’t hired until the recruiting season was well underway.

“I was surprised with the level of talent that came through the doors. Having those ties to the community, it’s great.”

Nevertheless, “I’m not going to pass up a superb talent just because he lives far away.”

Indeed, one of the Blues ‘big man’ recruits, Sandhu Manraj, hails from Surrey.

On the women’s side, head coach Paul Chiarenza reflected without despair at a 80-44 loss to Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), a 76-69 defeat at the hands of Mount Royal College, or a 57-44 loss to Quest University. The lady Blues crushed CBC by 39 points, 84-45 to start the tournament.

The ever-descriptive Chiarenza explained: “We were anemic on offense, but oozing with intestinal fortitude on defense.”

Despite the offensive struggles of his almost completely overhauled roster and the addition of nine new players, Chiarenza saw many positives.

Jessica Franz, Donna Blaszak, Amber Pedersen, and Laura Kynoch were among the team’s leaders over the weekend. Blaszak, Pedersen, and Kynoch are all rookies, while Blaszak is the only local North Vancouver product on the women’s side.

“In a lot of ways, [this team is] extremely tough.”

“We’re mentally more capable of going deeper in the season.”

Chiarenza knows losses versus SAIT and Mount Royal are nothing to be ashamed of. Both schools have expressed interest in joining the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) or possibly even the NCAA.

“It would have been nice to have a couple more wins,” admits Chiarenza, however, he still relishes the challenge of forging a “completely new team.”

“It forces you to kick your own butt. You can’t let up. It’s actually pretty fun, having that fire lit under you.”

Both the Blues men and women open their regular seasons at Douglas College on November 6. The home openers are the following weekend November 13-14 versus CBC.

//Jens Ourom

Sports Writer

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