KAMLOOPS – Vernon products Brett Rouault and Will Ondrik are hoping to push the .500 Thompson Rivers University WolfPack into the CIS men’s basketball playoffs in the new year.
Head coach Scott Clark has the 4-4 Pack within striking distance of the leaders in the Canada West Pacific Division. TRU opens 2012 with a Jan. 6 home tilt against the 2-6 University of Winnipeg Wesmen.
“Winning and losing are by-products of a process which goes back to what people do in the summer time,” said Clark. “The record shows that the guys are committed and have displayed the right attitudes. The result is that we have won four league contests. If we focus on that is wrong, we want to focus on what has led to that. I am proud of the behaviors that the players have exhibited more than the record.”
The Pack ended the pre-Christmas portion of their schedule with back-to-back victories over Brandon Bobcats and Regina Cougars before losing a pair of exhibition games in Southern California last weekend.
Clark entered the season with virtually a brand new team. Only four players: Chas Kok (5th year, forward, Lynden, Wash.), Kevin Pribilsky (4th year, guard, Victoria), Rouault (2nd year, guard), and Brett Harper (2nd year, guard, Langley) were back from the team he inherited in 2010-11. With so many new faces, the fact that they have blended so well together so soon has also been a plus.
“I’m a pretty harsh critic,” said Clark. “A lot of people have said we play unselfishly and the right way. I believe we do that to a certain degree. I think that we can get better in those certain areas. Sometimes you look at it and say as a basketball coach I could do a better job of teaching to get that done.
“I am pleased where we are at, but not ecstatic. That is one of the things that makes you upbeat that while our performance has been OK – there is room for improvement. That is our job in the second half of the year.”
Ondrik, who transferred from VSS to White Rock Christian Academy for his Grade 12 year, says the veterans are showing him loads of respect.
“It has been pretty good,” said Ondrik. “The older guys are giving me the chance to look good (referring to his playing time). I have been able to score a bit. It hasn’t been that big of an adjustment from playing AAA in Vancouver. It is more physical than high school.”
Ondrik said he is surprised at the decent minutes (23 minutes a game) Clark has given him, and he’s stoked about the second half (10 league games).
“We have the same amount of wins as they did the entire last season. If we keep working hard, I think the playoffs are a good possibility.”
Ondrik, a 6-foot-7 190-pound forestry student is 17-for-45 from the field and has 50 points.
Rouault, a Fulton Maroon grad, knows the Pack can pick things up a notch in 2012, despite a lack of older leadership.
We had some expectation of doing better this year,” said Rouault. “It is hard not having a lot of older guys to look up to but at the same time, there are a lot of younger guys we have to look after. I am the oldest of four kids so I am used to it.”
Rouault injured his hip during the warm up of the Pack’s opening game, so has battled adversity while missing half the season.
“It’s been really tough. I have never been injured in my career. Going to rehab all the time has been a change…Hopefully we get some victories in the second half and make the playoffs.”
The 6-foot-4, 190-pound science student has averaged 11 minutes a game and is 5-for-10 from the field with 11 points.
Rouault and Ondrik were also busy off the court since the Pack are expected to be community leaders and work hard in the classroom. The Pack were involved in the Terry Fox Runs in schools and the Raise a Reader campaign before their season even started.
“The rookies see how the vets conduct themselves and want to emulate them,” said Clark. “That is not my leadership but the players themselves within the team.”
Clark adds Akeem Pierre (3rd year, guard, Calgary) has also taken on that leadership role after transferring to TRU from UBC during the summer.
“Their behavior has been outstanding and because of that it becomes the culture of what you are trying to breed.”
Clark added: “My favorite basketball team is the San Antonio Spurs. The reason is that most teams in the NBA make it mandatory to have their players weight lift and do individual skills training certain days a week. If they don’t they fine them. San Antonio doesn’t do that.
“They just get rid of those players who don’t do what is required. They have standards and expectations. From my perspective, that is what leading is. I think the leadership within the team is far more important than from me. The internal leadership sets the tone. Those five guys – the three core leaders and those on the peripheral – are the guys who set the tone.”