They arrived at the University of Waterloo as mystery clubs from B.C. Other players and basketball watchers who were at the 45th annual Naismith Classic last weekend now have a much clearer picture of the UNBC Timberwolves.
Both UNBC teams posted 2-1 records at the pre-season gathering in Ontario and the men were awarded the tournament title based on their points for-and-against ratio. The Timberwolves -- with a combined four wins in six games -- generated quite the buzz while they were on the Waterloo campus. And rightfully so. After all, the contests represented their first real tests at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport level.
"I think it was really good for the image of the university to have us out there," said UNBC men's head coach Todd Jordan. "I think a lot of people kind of learned where UNBC was and that was really good. We got some coverage in northpolehoops, which is a pretty big basketball website in Canada. And that's part of the reason why we went CIS -- we want to be on the same playing field and be compared to the bigger universities in the country and I think on the first weekend, we've already seen that we're starting to accomplish some of those things."
The male Timberwolves lost their opener 80-71 to host Waterloo but then recorded victories against York University (97-89) and the Universit du Qubec Montral (90-55). As for the UNBC women, they beat Cape Breton University 62-57 and dumped Waterloo 73-62 before a loss to Concordia University. That game ended 66-52 in favour of the Montreal-based squad.
When individual awards were handed out at the end of the Classic, fifth-year guard Jose Araujo received the MVP honours on the men's side and fellow fifth-year guard Joel Rybachuk was recognized as an all-star. In the women's draw, fourth-year guard/forward Mercedes Van Koughnett and third-year guard Jordyn Rabbitt both made the all-star team.
Both UNBC clubs will start their first regular seasons in the Canada West conference of the CIS Nov. 2 in Kamloops against the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack.
Speaking about his own team and its weekend in Waterloo, Jordan said it was nice to feel like the T-wolves belong in the CIS. He did, however, stress the importance of keeping the early success in perspective.
"I don't know if any of those teams [at the tournament] would be Canada West playoff teams," he said. "Even since we've been back home, we've had a lot of people telling us how good we are and we've got to make sure that we don't believe too much of it and continue to work hard to get better."
The UNBC men won't play this weekend but will be back in action Oct. 25 at Abbotsford's University of the Fraser Valley, where they'll face the Lakehead University Thunderwolves of Thunder Bay, Ont. In Jordan's estimation, the Thunderwolves will be one of the elite teams in the CIS this season.
"That will be a really good measuring stick," he said. "Outside of probably Carleton, Lakehead will be comparable to anyone in the country. They're a very, very tough team."
At Fraser Valley, the T-wolves will also tip off against the McMaster University Marauders.
The UNBC women's team will be right back on the hardwood this weekend. The Timberwolves will be at Calgary's Mount Royal University and will battle SAIT on Friday, the University of Calgary on Saturday and the University of Lethbridge on Sunday.